America- California specifically-has always been seen as a land of plenty. California exported $13.6 billion dollars in agricultural goods alone in 2008, but all this bounty comes with a catch. According to the EPA, millions of tons of food waste ends up in our landfills every year.
The food thrown out by households each year has an estimated worth of $43 billion dollars, enough to put $138 in the pocket of every American. Wastefulness aside, the decay of organic matter creates a number of issues for residents near waste facilities and for the general public. Organic decay is responsible for 20% of the methane (a gas with 25x the global warming potential of CO2) emissions in the U.S. and also the main sources of odor in landfills.
Food scraps make up about 14% of our trash but a whopping 33.8% of our landfill, higher than any other material. Nationally 40% of food bought is eventually thrown out and of that, less than 3% of food waste ever gets recycled. This disproportionality is in large part due to the lack of organic waste management in most parts of the country.
The amount of food wasted is especially stunning given the high potential organic waste has for commercial use. When recycled properly, food scraps can be turned into high quality compost used by farmers and gardeners to increase water and nutrient retention.
Just this month, the Pacific Southwest region of the EPA developed a mapping tool that will allow organizations who have digesters, the mechanism for converting food scrap to methane, to connect with large food waste producers.
Waste isn’t just soda cans on the beach. It is every egg shell and orange rind tossed in the garbage to make your omelet and orange juice this morning. A study by the World Bank found that the amount of solid waste produced by the world is expected to double by 2025. For the State of California, the choice seems obvious, take what we have and turn it into what we need.