Since food waste biodegrades, one could think that it can’t create much problems in landfills. But food waste in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In the US 34 million tons of food waste was generated in 2010. Making food waste only second to paper as waste source. Of the 34 million tons, less than 3% were recycled. This makes food waste the largest category of waste going to landfills, plastic and paper are well behind as the second and third largest waste categories.
According to some figures, roughly a third of the global food production is lost. Not everything end up in landfills but the numbers are huge. In 2011, about 1.3 billion tons of food was wasted. One study indicated that about 15% of the edible food bought in the US is discarded untouched. This amounts to $43 billion of discarded food. If the figures are true, this means that the average US household throws away 470 pounds of unused food every year. This adds up to quite a lot of money that could have been spent on other consumer products.
Composting food waste at home would be a good solution but that is not a feasible solution in cities. In some places local authorities subsidise composting bin systems. The main advantage of composting is that organic waste creates a valuable product.
Not only does food waste produce methane when dumped in landfills but vermin and flies are attracted by the food waste. Some food waste also produces odours as it decomposes. With the huge amounts of food waste, landfills are being stretched to the limits in many places.
Given the problems created by food waste, most countries are trying to limit the amount of food waste being generated in the first place. A lot of solutions exist for how to deal with food waste but all of them have their own disadvantages. By trying to limit the amount of food waste generated in the first place, the strain on the waste management systems is reduced.
The garbage disposer is one way of solving the problem with food waste. By grinding the food waste into small particles, it can be transported through the sewer system to waste water treatment plants. Modern waste water treatment plants can convert the food waste particles into bio-gas. But garbage disposers have often come under fire, critics mean that they are far from environmentally friendly. They may reduce the problems at landfills but instead they create new problems for the sewer systems and the waste water plants.