Sunday, January 17, 2010

I Love This Program!

Dad is leaving for San Francisco on Tuesday and everytime he travels out there I wish I could go with. I want to go there because there are so many cool environmental programs in the Bay Area. They are much more forward thinking in their concern for the environment and this begs the question - is this because they have to or because they want to?

One such program that I love takes place in Alameda County. It's a program that addresses a huge environmental problem, one that all of us contribute to. Unfortunately, I don't think the program would work in the midwest, at least not year-round.

The mission of Stopwaste.org is to reduce the waste stream for Alameda County. One way they have been accomplishing this is by offering food scrap recycling programs in cities in their county. Recycle food scraps? Oh yeah!

Did you know that food waste is the least recovered of all waste in the U.S.? Americans throw away an average of 1.3 pounds of food waste each day! What? Throw it away? If everyone had a pug there wouldn't be a food waste problem!

Check out this pie chart from the U.S. EPA to get see where food scraps fit into the waste picture.
I was surprised to see that the percentage of food scraps is larger than that of plastics, and is just behind yard trimmings. Hmmm. What do food scraps and yard trimmings have in common? They are both used in compost bins. The people from Stopwaste.org saw this correlation too and it prompted them to the start a food scrap recycling program. And believe me, it was needed. According to their website, food scraps and food soiled paper are the largest single items in their waste stream, accounting for 35% of all waste thrown away. That's a bigger percentage then the national average!

But how does the program work? It's so easy even a pug could do it! Residents are provided with a special food scrap pail that they keep in their kitchen. When dinner is over and there is food still left on plates, the scraps get placed in the pail instead of the garbage. This sounds really familiar to those of you who compost, doesn't it? Where this program differs from home composting is that meat and bones are accepted. Virtually nothing goes to waste.

The food scrap pail is emptied into the yard trimmings can, which is then picked up by the local waste management company. The food scraps and yard trimmings are dropped off at a facility where it gets processed for composting. Now this is the really cool part. After it's processed, it is put into piles called "windows" where it takes 3 - 4 months to break down into compost. How cool is that?
The compost is then sold to farmers to grow crops and to residents to use on their lawns and in their gardens. This system is the poster child of closed loop recycling!

Like I mentioned before, this system would not work in the midwest (or any other climate where it snows) because we do not have yard trimmings year-round. I'm not sure if this system could be implemented during the months we do have yard trimmings, where the piles would turn into compost under a blanket of snow. I definitely think this is something to look into because of the amount of food waste that is rotting and not composting in landfills. There is no reason to throw away something that we need and can use.

Until a system is implemented where you live, the U.S. EPA created this inverted food pyramid to provide you with ways of lessening your food waste in order of priority.

The recommendation at the top of the pyramid is the easiest thing to do. Reducing the volume of food waste generated is really much easier to do then most people think. Think about why you throw food away. Most of the time it is because you make too much, put it in the refrigerator, forget about it, and then it goes bad. Off to the garbage can it goes. By only making what you can and will eat, you are not only reducing waste but also saving money.

If you find yourself with extra food, consider donating it to food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters. All of us participate in food drives several times a year but food is need year-round in most communities. Most organizations would gladly accept your food - it's just a matter of finding outlets for it. It may take some time to find some, but I know they're out there. And if they're not? Then there's an opportunity for you to start one.

Food scraps are used to feed farm animals all the time. If you've ever lived on a farm or visited a farm you know that nothing goes to waste. Feeding farm animals table scraps is a great use for food destined for landfills. If you live near a farm, this is a great opportunity for you to rid yourself of scraps that the animals will love.

There are lots of industrial uses for food waste with most of them originating at the source of meat production. Rendering is the process of converting waste animal tissue into materials that are used in foods and other products. Again, nothing on farms is wasted. I can't go into a lot of detail here because Mom doesn't eat animals and she's peeking over my shoulder.

Composting is a great way to convert food scraps into fertilizer. As we have seen above, a closed loop system is the most desired way to handle waste. Some people compost at home but others don't. Whether you do or don't, know that your food scraps are still valuable even though they're waste to you. We hear this all the time - one man's trash is another man's treasure. No where is this more true then in composting. If you don't compost, try to find a neighbor or friend that does. I'm sure they would love to add your scraps to their heap.

Sending food to landfills is the least desired option, as is burning it. Waste that sits in landfills never really breaks down into anything usable. It just sits and piles up until it reaches the top of the landfill. All landfills are eventually shut down because they get full. Full of stuff. Stuff that, for the most part, doesn't have to be there in the first place.

Incineration releases byproducts into an already crowded atmosphere. Remember, things never go away. Burning a piece of anything releases whatever was in that piece into the air, be it good, bad, or neutral for the environment. Incineration is a part of some communities because it is their only option. There has to be a better way.

It's kind of funny but all this this food waste talk is making me hungry. It's making Mom do a lot of thinking about ways of reduce waste and of educating the public about the problem of food waste. I guess we have different priorities. Like I said before, if each household had a pug, food waste wouldn't be a problem.

26 comments:

Stella, Gunther & Betty said...

Thanks for posting! Such a great resource.

We saw something similar to this on mom's favorite show, Dirty Jobs. Can you say Mike Rowe? *eye roll*...

There was a pig farmer in Nevada who had all the big casinos along the strip throw all their uneaten and left over food into a special bin. Then all those bins were delivered to this pig farm and that food (after sorted, etc) was fed to his pigs. None was wasted.

We wouldn't mind gettin' some of that!

Snorts,
Stella, Gunther and Betty

Yoda & Brutus said...

Hey Stubby, our grandma & grandpa do this on their own and have since mom and her brothers were little. even during the winter, the food scraps still get added to the compost bin and then in spring, grandpa will turn it and add other compost elements to help it.

Pugs & Kisses,

Yoda & Brutus

Debbie said...

That was so interesting. Thanks for the info.

天那 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pearl said...

Hmmm... that comment above me is weird....

ANYWAY, what a cool program, Stubby! I, for one, volunteer to dispose of ALL my parents food scraps for the time being. Right here, Mom and Dad! Just put 'em in my bowl please!

;)
xoxo
Pearly

Lex said...

That is really interesting.. it kind of baffles me that here in Canada we have been recycling everything for ages and that it is still kind of new in the States. I met a lady in Utah who has to pay the city for her recyling to be picked up once a month when ours is picked up for free by the city once a week. In other words i wonder what our local chart would look like?
I try really hard to cut down on our portion sizes so that we don't have a lot of food waste but sadly to say, we don't have a compost because we rent and it's fairly erxpensive to install (from what I have seen) and then we wouldn't really be able to move it with us! Oh well... I hope your daddy has a safe trip!

Stella, Gunther & Betty said...

Holy smoly... what is that comment above??? You is one talented pugger if ya can read that!

Stubby said...

Hi Stella, Gunther & Betty! That's so cool that you saw something similar to this program on tv. I don't watch "Dirty Jobs" but I hear it's a great show.

Mom will want to visit this pig farmer when she goes to Nevada. I think all restaurants that are close to farms should do the same thing.

I'm with you guys - I wouldn't mind getting some restaurant food either. Can you say Popeyes?!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Yoda & Brutus! Kudos to your grandparents for composting. It sounds like they've been doing it for a long time and I'm sure it's paid off. No waste at their house!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Debbie! It was interesting for me to learn about the staggering amount of food that is thrown away each day. If I were a human, I would get a bunch of pugs and then I would never have a waste problem - at least not food waste!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Pearly Poo! That comment above you is weird. I hovered over the link and it's for some kind of crazy sex talk stuff - yuk!

Good for you for volunteering to dispose of all the food scraps in your house. I think we should start a movement - pugs for scraps. We could revolutionize the food waste landscape!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Lex! It baffles me too why the U.S. has been so slow to adopt recycling. I'm not sure why that is but it gives me something to look into.

We have to pay to have our recycling as well as our normal waste picked up in front of our house. I wonder if yours is subsidized by the government or another agency. It would be interesting to see what your chart would look like if you had to pay for this service. I think people here are used to paying for it so they don't mind it.

It sounds like you're doing the right thing by cutting down on food portions in lieu of composting. Not everyone can or will compost and that's just a fact of life.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Stella, Gunther and Betty! I know! What is with that comment? I'm not that talented, so I cannot read it. I hovered over it and it seems to be some sex talk stuff. Maybe they have a thing for cute pugs.

Stubby xoxo

Dana Orsborn said...

Penny and I love San Francisco!

The Bay Area really is the best
if you want to get into recycling
or any environmental programs.
When I moved from the Bay Area
to Vegas, I was shocked that
there were hardly any places
to recycle, and people
just threw trash on
the side of the
road.

*Sigh*

Penny and I hope you have
a great week!

-Dana & Penny

Stubby said...

Hi Dana & Penny! I can't believe that Las Vegas hardly has any places to recycle. There are some real opportunities to start some programs out there.

Dad has promised to take me to the Bay Area one of these days. It really is tops in the country for environment and recycling programs and I just have to see it for myself.

Stubby xoxo

Hank said...

Stubman....it is DISGRACEFUL how wasteful humans are - 'specially American ones!

I don't waste NOTHIN' I tell ya what! An' it shows! ;)

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Hi Stubby
Thank you for all that information.
I save all our vegetable scraps to feed my wormies. They get hungry, and LOVE everything I give them.
And if we have other vegetables all the deer eat it. Nothing goes to waste here- we save grass clippings and leaves too. I don't let my toys get in that composter though. All your ideas are wonderful to help our environment and the earth. You ALWAYS have so much to share.
love
tweedles

agent99 said...

Stubbs - Thanks for the invite! We really appreciate it! BTW, we take out jobs as Chief Food Recyclers very seriously! If it was up to us there would be ZERO food waste at our house!

love
Geb & THE fOO

Stubby said...

Hi Hank! I knew you would be on top of this problem. Our peeps real are wasteful and it must stop.

I'm so glad you're not wasting any food at your house. Can you please talk to my mom about the good work you do around your house? Mom's afraid I'll weigh 50 pounds if I use my food scrap skills.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Tweedles! That's so cool that you feed food scraps to your wormies. I'm sure they love it! And the deers are our friends, aren't they? They need to eat too and you feed them.

You are so good to all your little animal friends. What's a Tweedles to do but take care of the world?

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Gen & The Foo! There would be no waste in my house if I had way too. I don't know what the problem is. I take my job seriously but others in the house don't see it my way. Maybe when you come over you can talk to my peeps.

Stubby xoxo

dw said...

Wow, that's a lot of food being wasted! There's not much wasted here since I am very careful about trying to plan meals so nothing gets wasted. And of course, very soon I'll have a little food collector of my own!

dw said...

Oh, btw, Stubby, let your mom know that even though she resolved her TP dilemma.... I did manage to find Marcal TP in the area. I haven't gone to Strack and VanTil yet, but I saw another ad for them at Pete's Market. I did a little reconnaissance and saw that they do indeed carry them. They're mostly on the SW side of the city, but just wanted you to know Marcal is available in the area.

Stubby said...

Hi dw! I couldn't believe all the food being wasted either. I try to help out with food waste removal but Mom won't let me. I hope you let you new puggie help with the little food waste you have and then you can talk to my mom about it.

Thanks for the tp info. I wonder why they're selling Marcal in such obscure locations. Mom was at a Jewel in a different town today and looked for it to no avail.

Stubby xoxo

Melissa and Emmitt said...

hi stubby!
what a great post!
fred and i were so excited when our local waste management company added composte to our weekely pick up this year. i cannot believe how much it cuts down on our trash!
xoxoxox
m & e

Stubby said...

Hi Melissa & Emmitt! That's so cool that your local waste management company is picking up your compost. You guys are so lucky. I'm hoping that more communities get on board with this program and soon it's available everywhere.

Stubby xoxo