22% of the waste that goes into the Lyon County Landfill is food waste. While it is easy to compact food waste once it gets into the landfill, there is more to the story.
So, first, what are we wasting when it comes to food waste? A recent survey of the Lyon County Landfill this past spring gave us some clues as to what kind of food waste is going into the landfill. The top item is food without packaging. So, think about that pizza that was left uneaten and thrown away. These, combined with food scraps (think peeling carrots, for example) are the leaders in the type of food waste that is thrown away in our area. The next group is open or expired food, which is things that maybe we tried but didn’t like or food items that we never got around to eating for some reason.
Compostable food service products and compostable paper products are next on the list. These include food service products such as forks, spoons and plates that are listed as something that can be compostable under the composting guidelines. (Regular plastic utensils or Styrofoam plates/cups are not compostable.) It can even include items such as toilet tissue rolls or paper towels and napkins, which are compostable. Unopened and unexpired packaged food are next on the list. These are things that were still good to eat but were thrown away for some reason. The last category is liquids such as milk, cream, pop, or other drinks that were thrown away and the drink is still in the containers.
While composting is one step in handling food waste, there are some other steps that residents can take before we need to compost any food items. We need to address wasting less in the first place. As a whole, in our area, we do pretty well compared to other parts of the U.S. where food waste is as high as 40%. We need to take care and remember to choose wisely when we are out grocery shopping. If we consider all that goes into raising food: transportation, water, labor; food has a high cost for the environment. Minnesotans on average waste about 200 pounds of food a year. We have a goal in Minnesota to cut that number in half.
So what can residents do? It starts at home and with a little help, we can all reduce our food waste in our area. If you need inspiration, you can go to https://savethefood.com/. This website has tips on preserving food that wasn’t eaten up right away to how to make a good grocery list (and stick to it) while you are shopping.
Simple steps like planning meals for the week by writing down a tentative menu are one simple thing residents can do in order to keep food from spoiling in the fridge. Labeling one shelf in the fridge with tape or a small sign that says, “Eat this first” in order to keep the older items in the fridge from being pushed to the back of the fridge. Cooking and freezing meals are also a help for those days that you just don’t feel like cooking. It is simple to pull something out of the freezer and pop it into the microwave or the oven.
We all have those meals that we rely on each week. This helps especially if you have kids at home. There is always that one picky eater. These meals can be made ahead of time or make just a little extra for those days when the kids just don’t seem like they will fill up. An extra bowl of spaghetti or left over pizza seems to hit the spot for those teens on the run with busy schedules.
If you are going out to eat, remember to ask for half portions if they are offered. If not, bring half of it home for leftovers. You can also use smaller plates. A plate that is reduced by 9% shows that a resident can save on approximately 25% of food waste according to Save The Food.
If you are in a house, you can consider starting a compost area of your garden. You don’t need any fancy equipment to start a compost pile. For directions on how to get started, go to https://extension.umn.edu/how-manage-soil-and-nutrients-home-gardens/composting-home-gardens. The U of M Extension has some pretty awesome information on how to get started without having to invest a lot of time or money. The blessing of a compost pile is that you can put it back right into your garden every fall.
For more information on disposing items, please go to the county website located at www.lyonco.org or call the Lyon County Environmental Department at (507) 532-8210.