The Home Front

I recently came across stats for food waste in Orange County, North Carolina, where I live. My immediate reaction–Wow!

It seems we waste a fair amount of food in N.C.’s O.C. In 2005, food waste was one-fifth of the county’s waste stream, its largest component. Considering overall waste for the county was 56,303 tons, 11,091 tons were at one point edible. That means the county could fill almost four football fields with food waste.

In the town of Chapel Hill, food waste was 27.5 percent of the waste stream. I imagine its number is higher than surrounding towns because of Chapel Hill’s impressive food waste composting program. Keep in mind that these figures don’t account for the waste put down garbage disposals.

Looking at trends, residential food waste doubled from 1995 to 2005, going from 11 to 22 percent. Commercial food waste also doubled in the same period, rising from 12 to 24 percent, after rounding.

While our overall goal should be to utilize as much food as possible, a secondary one is to prevent food from going to landfills. As the numbers show, we have plenty of room for improvement.

On a personal level, I’m going to start putting my food waste where my mouth is, er…or at least where my food politics lie. In other words, I’m going to start composting. Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law, I now have a compost bin. With any luck, I’ll be set up and diverting food scraps from landfill by the weekend.

Of course, I’ll continue to try to reduce the amount of food that is wasted in our house–the most important step on the EPA Food Waste Recovery Hierarchy. But it’s nice to have a fall back for that head of cabbage that gets lost at the back of the fridge.  

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