What’s the Big Stink About Food Waste?

By Sara Mack                                                                                                                                                                        Communications Intern at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

You’re probably aware of the “food waste problem” in America. It’s hard to miss when statistics about the enormous amount of waste are broadcasted through advertisements produced by everyone ranging from freezer bag companies to the Environmental Protection Agency. But why does it matter if you forget to use the spinach before it spoils? Or if you lose track of the leftovers from last week’s company lunch and it gets moldy at the back of the fridge? Even though throwing one rotten head of broccoli into the landfill isn’t going to single-handedly accelerate climate change, chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, you understand that even a small amount of individual food waste adds up to a big problem globally. Even though one head of broccoli might not seem like a big deal, after considering the amount of families that go hungry each day, and the implications of tons of food waste producing methane as it decomposes in the landfill, it makes sense why people are raising a stink about this issue. Luckily, this problem has a natural solution. According to the EPA, compostable organic waste comprises about 28% of overall food waste. Diverting food from landfills into compost bins globally is one big way we can all fight to reduce hunger and fight climate change at the same time, and that’s an initiative we can get behind!

Composting food waste is important for reasons even beyond an influx of methane gas produced by landfills when food is improperly discarded. The quantity of produce required to sustain a growing global population, especially with a growing push for local, fresh food, is limited by rapidly declining soil quality when proper farming practices relating to soil maintenance are not used. As severe weather events become more commonplace in the face of climate change, soil erosion also increases. As more soil is washed away, it becomes blatantly obvious that all soil is not created equal as farmers are forced to abandon agricultural land depleted of all nutrients necessary for crop growth. This degradation occurs because the soil found on the top of preserved land, before it is tilled and developed by modern tools, is known to be the most nutrient-rich of all soil layers.This soil, referred to as “O-Horizon” soil, is also the first layer to be washed away by an increase in erosion. Luckily, composting is our friend when it comes to generating nutrient-rich soil. This production of high-quality soil is what closes the sustainability loop on composting, making the process entirely renewable.

At Bootstrap Compost alone, over 5,290,171 pounds of waste have been diverted from landfill since it was established. Even though large portions of this waste have already been redistributed in the form of compost that can be used to cultivate an incredible garden, a huge pile of it is still in the process of decomposing and transitioning into productive soil at Bootstrap’s affiliated farms. Looking at the mountain of waste as it transitions from a form that is commonly discarded into a landfill into something that will ultimately help to support a more sustainable society makes it impossible to ignore the importance of composting on a large scale. Because Bootstrap is a regional organization, the potential that composting has to take control of our environmental fate is energizing. Imagine if companies like Bootstrap were picking up the compost of even half of the homes in the nation! Although this dream may seem recklessly optimistic, the importance of composting in our society can not be overstated. In an era often defined by consumerism and unhealthy eating habits in America, composting initiatives provide an outlet for individuals to reduce their waste in a productive, sustainable, and achievable manner.