Food Waste Awareness Month

AgRecycle, Pennsylvania’s longest operating composting company, is proud to be the second tier choice for handling food that is not consumed. All  food that remains safely edible should be diverted to feed those in need when possible, as the first choice across this state and this country.

Composting and anaerobic digestion, not landfilling, are the most environmentally responsible choices for all  food that is not able to be consumed safely and for inedible food scraps.

 

  1. As a Pittsburgh based company, AgRecycle is proud to be a part of the city’s December designation of Food Matters Month. We are a company who has dealt with food scraps since 1998, and we will be posting a fact a day from now until December 31st , on the topic of Food Waste Awareness to tie in with the City’s Food Matters Month.  The following link will provide you with a good educational starting point for our kick-off on this topic. https://www.post-gazette.com/life/food/2020/09/04/Pittsburgh-food-waste-Sustainable-Pittsburgh-Natural-Resources-Defense-Council/stories/202008310099
  2. Do you know this staggering statistic? 40% of all food grown and raised in the United States is not eaten (80 billion pounds).This equals 219 pounds per person, per year. While sadly 13% of the American population struggles to put food on their tables according to the EPA and USDA.
  3. Are you aware that the largest volume component in landfills is food waste? It takes up 22% of daily landfill space. Are you aware that food is also the largest generation source of methane gas escaping from landfills and that methane gas is 30 times more harmful to the atmosphere than CO2? Composting is an aerobic activity that produces exponentially lower greenhouse gases.
  4. Yesterday, we told you about food scraps going to landfills. Today, please browse our site to learn why composting those food scraps makes the responsible difference.  
  5. It’s Saturday, a good day to take a break from cooking and place an order from your favorite local restaurant. It can provide a nice change of pace from your kitchen prepared meals; comes in portion appropriate quantities; and supports your local community. Order out and ENJOY! If you cannot think of a spot, perhaps these links will help you decide https://goodfoodpittsburgh.com/takeoutpgh-15-places-to-order-takeout-now/  and https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/some-of-the-best-takeout-to-grab-around-pittsburgh/Content?oid=17046212
  6. Did you know that people throw out more food from their home kitchens than grocery stores and restaurants combined? Studies also show that food waste volumes from homes happens at almost identical levels in the U.S. across all income levels.  We can all do better. Before cleaning out your fridge please visit https://www.nrdc.org/stories/read-cleaning-out-your-fridge to learn about 5 common food myths.
  7. Now that you know how wasteful we can be with our food, we are dedicating the next four days to providing some ways to rethink things that may help us all to do better and to become less wasteful with small changes. The first thing is to you have think about is how you buy food. We begin by asking you if you are really doing better financially by buying in bulk? If you have a large family or were hosting a large dinner or party in the pre-pandemic protocol world, it is sensible. We all get “caught up” in getting that large bag of produce at a lesser per pound price than buying the smaller bag or the items individually but how often do you finish it before spoilage occurs? People often fail to realize that by throwing out those last three gnarly wizened potatoes or the moldy lemons that you end up costing yourself more money than if you had purchased a smaller quantity at a higher price per pound. Another shopping wise tip is to take the smallest cart in the store so you buy just what you need.  When you use the big cart you are often tempted to fill it whether you really need all those items or not.
  8. The second item we would like you to think about in making small changes in reducing food waste is to consider how you are storing food. Different foods have different storage needs.  Please visit the food storage section on www.savethefood.com for some wonderful advice
  9. The third item we would like you to think about in the small changes category, regarding wasting less food, comes from a Danish study. (Yes, Denmark because let’s be totally transparent here and tell you that AgRecycle has multiple staff members who have spent time in Copenhagen and are terribly fond most things Danish.) If we reduce the size of the plate from which we are eating by just 9%, food waste is reduced by 25%.
  10. Our fourth and final item in rethinking how we can make small changes to become less wasteful with our food deals with restaurant dining. If you are presented with an entrée that is larger than you know that you can eat, ask for your “doggy bag” before you begin to eat and section out your take home portion first. This has more benefits than you might imagine. It gives you an extra meal or portion of a meal without additional cost, prevents overeating and reduces the restaurant’s cost to compost (because hopefully you support restaurants who respect the environment and do not landfill food scraps).

 

 

 

11. So it is Friday the 11th and you have had ten days of food waste awareness messages from AgRecycle and we hope you have learned a few things and will be making some small but impactful changes.  Now we want you to know that we are not blind to the fact that there will always be waste from food that will not be consumed no matter how hard we try.  Who knows what the future may bring but currently we do not envision people ever eating banana peels, steak bones, corn husks, fruit pits or nut shells. However, what we do envision is that people might begin to care that those items are not just being wasted but transformed through composting or anaerobic digestion.

 

12. In our quest to raise awareness about how to reduce the amount of un-edible and not donatable food waste that is generated, we want to bring to the forefront the strong connection between food scrap mismanagement and climate change.  A great example of this is what we have learned from chefs who compost and from chefs who do not compost. We have an entire section dedicated to this on our website called the Kitchen Door Disconnect.

13.We, at AgRecycle, have a great love of wonderful food and phenomenal respect for the many extraordinary chefs contributing to global culinary efforts. As is evidenced by this charming nine year old, brown fellow, Carla’s Lagotto Romanglo named James Beard

. As the Steeler game is not being played until 8:00 p.m. tonight, we hope you can take the time to watch a video by the truly extraordinary chef Jacque Pepin and his non wasteful use of food ingredients. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JlYzlejWdo 

14. We begin this week by asking you a question that we ask ourselves at AgRecycle all the time. With the clear and unquestionable benefits of diverting food scraps to composting or anaerobic digestion, why does less than 1% of Pennsylvania’s population have access to curbside collection of food waste for composting or anaerobic digestion? We have dedicated a blog to this on our website that we hope you will take the time to read titled Commercial Composting Conundrum in Pennsylvania.

15.With grocery shopping time in full swing for current Hanukkah celebrations and menu planning time for Christmas and New Year celebrations, there are always two questions. What to buy and how much to buy. While we cannot help you with your food choices we can help you get a better gage on how much to buy. Reviewing the Guest-Imator on www.savethefood.com calculates how much food you need to keep your guests happy and full without being wasteful!!!

16.We all love eating off beautiful china but often that is not possible or practical particularly in commercial settings where single use items are used.  Did you know that only 14% of all plastic in the U.S. is actually recycled (Ellen Macarthur Foundation). Did you know that when certified compostable single used products are used approximately 60% more food scraps are captured to go to composting as opposed to being landfilled? This is because the compostable food service ware item and the food scraps can go into the same bin as opposed to making the effort to scrape material from a plastic or bowl (that most likely may not even be recycled). Do not be fooled about all the fake news surrounding certified compostable products from composters too uninformed to want them or from states with hidden agendas.  For the real science on these products please visit www.bpiworld.org

17.A lesson learned during this Covid 19 pandemic is that the best place to grocery shop safely is your own kitchen. Make the effort to go through your cabinets, freezer and drawers to see what you already have on hand to use. Make meal plans by using the ingredients with nearing expiration dates first. Remember the odd ingredients you purchased to make that recipe that once upon a time that sounded interesting to you; well, with far less outside the activities on your schedule, now is the time to finally make it.

 

 

18.In this pandemic compromised economy, it is particularly astounding to learn from the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) that the 40% of food wasted in this country equates to approximately 218 billion dollars a year. How can we continue to ignore this?

19.Are you curious about which foods are wasted the most, we were and the results were staggering and unimaginably disturbing.  These figures include food that is lost throughout the entire food supply chain, not just uneaten food and all are derived from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. For the next five days we are going to discuss them by category. Today we start with fruits and vegetables because they represents the largest amount wasted totaling an unbelievable 52% in North America and a global average of 46%. 30% of both numbers represent food thrown out from households. Apples, bananastomatoes, and potatoes are among the very highest wasted

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20.The second highest volume of food wasted is fish and seafood with a North American percentage of 48% and a global percentage of 35%. The capture of non-targeted fish, bycatch, remains an enormous threat to ocean ecosystems and the decline of fish populations globally. U.S. fisheries discard just under 2 billion pounds of fish annually a majority of which are in the bycatch category. One in three fish caught globally never makes it into the kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

21.Cereals, grains and bread represent the third highest amounts of food wasted. In North America 35% of this food stream becomes waste and 29% globally. As might be expected, breads and wheat represent the highest portions wasted in the western world and rice in the eastern world. U.S. data tells us we waste 20% of bread that we bring into our households and another 12% is wasted between where it is baked and retail outlets. EU data has the UK throwing out 20 million slices per day and the Netherlands disposing of 435,000 loaves per day. Estimates indicate that 175 pounds of rice, per person is wasted throughout Asia emitting 610 million tons of greenhouse gases per year.

22.The fourth largest volume of wasted food is derived from legumes and oils derived from seeds. 20% of this food group is wasted in North America and 22% globally. The largest losses in this category actually occur during processing and storage rather than in households.


23.The final category of food waste we will be examining specifically is meat (excluding dairy). Globally the wasted percentage is 22% while in North America the amount wasted is over twice that at 49%. The global amount of meat uneaten equates to 12 billion animals, a staggering number of living creatures to be wasted.

24. As we consider all these aspects of food waste awareness, perhaps on this particular day we should consider those who have no food to waste. Today we ask you to think about making a contribution to a local food bank or any local organization helping to feed those in need. Earlier we demonstrated many small ways that can change and reduce food waste. Today we ask you to make a small gift to support feeding others in our community. If every person reading this makes a $5 commitment, a most positive impact could be achieved. Small actions make a difference.

25.

To those of you celebrating Christmas, I wish you the merriest one possible while adhering to Covid protocols. I am Carla, AgRecycle’s president, writing a personal message today.  The photo you are looking at is the food ornament only, Christmas tree that I put up in my dining room to celebrate the holiday.  It reflects a 25 year collection that remains ongoing and reflects my love of beautiful food whether in a field, on a plate or transformed into art pieces. The photo is from last year as my dining room will be empty of family and friends this year to maintain health safely.  While AgRecycle composts a variety of items, food waste is the one that is most impactful to me.  I come from a family most respectful of food. My maternal grandmother was one of the first female chefs for a major railroad. My mother while being an extraordinary cook was most known for how she sourced food. We had a quarter acre garden, nine apple trees of assorted varieties plus four pear and two plum trees and though I was obviously raised in the age of super markets, my mother was not their biggest fan.  She put many miles on that old Buick sourcing eggs from one farm but chicken from another as breeds mattered to her.  There was only one grower from whom she would buy her favorite, boysenberries. Reflecting back with today’s wisdom, her energy use in driving was not ideal but the outcomes were wonderful. When you are as fortunate as I have been to always be surrounded by the absolute respect of good food, from how it is grown to how it is prepared, its waste is sincerely disheartening. Please be mindful of that as you fill, not overfill, your holiday dinner plate this year.

27.What to do with off spec-pizza dough????? Composting it is the answer as seen here at an AgRecycle site. In a country where pizza is as loved as it here, it is good to know that according to sources at Wasted Food, pizza leftovers are among the most loved so are least likely to be tossed (pun intended). The AgRecycle’s staff love of pizza is pretty well known and we are thankful as we see the switch to newer corrugated boxes, most of which are compostable. Our pet peeve, banish the plastic mini table thing in the middle of pizza as with the heavier corrugated it is rarely needed. Insecure about having the box top collapse into your pizza, make the mini table out of a compostable resin

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27.Did you know that tilling finished composts into soil is among THE most effective ways to sequester carbon and impact climate change? Did you know that compost produced with scientific best practices improves the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil? So with these astounding results that can be achieved simply by redirecting the final destination of food scraps and other organic materials, why do local, state and federal governmental officials not give this significant attention.  https://repository.usfca.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2010&context=capstone

28.Today might be a good day to think about repurposing leftovers. What to do with food scraps or foods on the verge at home, is an interesting thought process. We have all done the typical making banana bread from brown bananas, sandwiches from turkey and ham, zucchini muffins from the bag your neighbor left on your porch, French toast and bread puddings from semi-stale bread, bone broth from leftovers and vegetable stocks from bits and pieces, but what is your most creative idea? Here are some ideas that arose from our waste not group: roasting produce skins – we loved the potatoes, liked the brussels sprouts, had mixed opinions on the sugar roasted tangerine peels and all choked on the apple skins – we learned with the right seasonings you can pretty much stir fry anything and make it tasty – making cleaning products out of iffy lemons is no where near as easy nor as effective in getting good results as all those do it yourself waste not blogs tell you it is – fruit based vinegars need more work on our part to perfect and dumping random chopped vegetables into pasta does not always produce a delicious pasta primavera. However, we keep trying and hope you do as well.

29.Are you aware of the significant amount of methane that escapes from landfills before it can be captured and possibly turned into an energy source? Tossing food out and other organics to be landfilled not only harms your wallet but also impacts the health of this planet. This article explains the WARM model in detail. https://www.biocycle.net/connections-a-better-warm/

30.In our next to last point regarding raising awareness about food waste and about how inedible food scraps can benefit this planet when composted or sent to a digester we want to make sure you fully understand what composting is and how professional composters must operate in Pennsylvania.  Composting is the biological decomposition of organic wastes, under controlled conditions, resulting in a beneficial soil amendment.  Composting is NOT building a heap and allowing things to rot over time. Any composter, whether professional or a backyard practitioner, who tells you they can make a finished product in two weeks is not making compost; they are dehydrating materials that turn brown for  under no best scientific practice scenario is that possible. In Pennsylvania all composting businesses require a state issued permit.  If your composter doesn’t have one, move on to an organization who is permitted.


31.As we close out this most difficult year, we hope that our 31 days of various food waste awareness messages has broadened your understand of this topic beyond what is left uneaten on your plate. As a composting company approaching its 30thanniversary, we hope we have made you realize that not treating food scraps like trash can absolutely and positively impact climate change and transform American soils.   To date AgRecycle has diverted 1,502,762 cubic yards of food waste!