by this point you may be thinking, “so what’s all the hype about food waste and starving landfills? is this really a problem? what does it have to do with me?” and we get it. for most of us, this issue isn’t something we think about much, if at all. but here’s the thing… we all contribute to the food waste problem everyday, and the impact of our current waste management behaviors are unsustainable. here’s why...
the global food waste problem.
it’s no secret that world hunger is one of the biggest issues humanity is currently facing. zero hunger is #2 on the UN’s list of sustainable development goals to accomplish by 2030. The goal states, “waste less food and support local farmers.” why? because 33% of the food produced in the world is wasted, but 10% of people are undernourished. we produce more than enough food to feed everyone! this means we have a waste problem, not a food problem. therefore, we have to achieve zero food waste before we can achieve zero hunger. when we are no longer wasting this 33% of food produced, the major food suppliers will be forced to innovate and redirect their production and distribution to parts of the world that need it most. this will result in buying from local farmers, which boosts local economies, alleviates poverty, and provides greater food security.
the environmental food waste problem.
on top of perpetuating world hunger, food waste is one of the largest contributors to global warming. this results in a disproportionate amount of resources wasted in the food supply chain (energy, fuel, land, water, etc). globally, 25% of agricultural water use and land mass the size of china go toward producing wasted food. cutting food waste in half by 2030 would prevent having to convert land the size of argentina to farms.and yet, the biggest environmental food waste problem is that most of it ends up in landfills. and once in a landfill, food does the opposite of what nature intends. Instead of breaking down naturally and quickly to return nutrients into the soil, food in landfills decomposes slowly, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that is 28x more potent than carbon dioxide (yikes!) landfills are the 3rd largest source of human-caused methane emissions in the united states, and globally, food waste is responsible for 8% of all greenhouse gases.
our food waste problem.
“yeah, but what part am i playing in all of this?” according to the epa, food waste makes up 24% of landfills, and based on our current trajectory, landfill capacity is set to run out in 15 years! so… that stinks! but what stinks even more is that we are ones to blame for this problem. 80% of food waste in the u.s. can be traced back to homes and consumer facing businesses. this is because the average person creates 250 pounds of food waste a year. if you live 75 years, that’s 18,750 pounds of food sent landfills! (this realization was our big “ahaa” moment in committing to starving landfills!)
the solution to this problem is simple. we (the consumers) have to start separating out food waste from landfill trash, and that food waste needs to be recycled through composting. sounds simple, right? currently only 10% of all households separate out their food waste to be recycled, but 67% of people surveyed by the epa say they would separate out food waste if it was more convenient. it sounds so simple… why is it so inconvenient?
if you’ve ever separated your food waste for composting, you know that it’s really not hard to do. instead of throwing your organic waste in the trash, put it in a separate bin. then compost it in your backyard, participate in a weekly curbside pickup service, or take it to a dropoff location like a community garden. but what starts to happen after 2 days of your food sitting in a bin? it stinks and you’ve probably attracted a few unwanted critters. so you take it outside, clean the mold and mess out of the bin, and start separating your food waste from your trash again. and if you are hard core and committed to ending food waste and global warming, this is fine, and you will keep going. the world is a better place because of people like you! but if you are the average american family, and you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, but you are past max capacity, running a taxi service for your kid’s activities, and don’t have the time or determination to deal with the inconvenience of food waste separation, your composting journey would probably end right there! and this was us too. separating food waste stunk. we tried to quit, we really did. but we just couldn’t unlearn the truth about food waste.
that’s why we created trace - to make sustainable living more convenient by partnering with people through every step of their journey to waste reduction. after all, the world doesn’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly. it needs millions of people doing it imperfectly. every small change matters, and should be celebrated, on your journey. so with you in mind, we created the trace smart can. to make food waste separation (and the world) stink a little less.
to starving landfills together!