Food Waste & Composting
Did you know that Australian households waste over 4 million tonnes of food every year and that Australians spend $7.8 billion on food that goes straight into the general waste bin?
Food waste is a major problem around the world, especially in a rapidly growing country like Australia. The increasing levels of food waste currently being generated in Australia are not sustainable and are greatly impacting the environment in a number of different ways.
In order to protect our environment and current lifestyles we all need to Think Food - Rethink Waste.
Love your leftovers
Food is expensive and yet food waste equates to approximately one-third of Logan's general waste stream! To help the Logan community combat food waste, Logan City Council are inviting residents to submit recipe ideas that transform meal leftovers, commonly wasted food items and food just past its best, into delicious, nutritious meal ideas.
With the help of the Logan community, Council hopes to create an online recipe book 'Love your Leftovers'. If you have a simple, innovative and creative recipe template then join the fight against food waste. See the "Love your Leftovers" form below.
Environmental impacts associated with food waste
All food waste that is disposed of into our general waste bins, ends up at landfill. When food breaks down in a landfill, together with other organic materials, it generates methane (CH4), a greenhouse gas 25 times more efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2).
Another characteristic of food waste decomposition in landfill is the release of nutrients that can make their way out of the landfill and into the surrounding environment. An excess of nutrients can devastate the natural balance of an ecosystem.
Food supply chain
In addition to landfills, Australia's food supply chain also has a significant impact on our contribution to the greenhouse effect. When food is thrown out, what you see in the bin is not the only resource being wasted; you are also throwing away all of the resources, such as water and energy that were required to get that food all the way from the farm to your plate. The food supply chain is responsible for approximately 23% of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions.
Reduce food waste at home
Food waste can easily be avoided by following some simple steps. Below are some useful tips to help you prevent food from being wasted in your home:
- Plan what you are going to eat for the week before going shopping
- Write a shopping list that takes into account existing food in the fridge or pantry
- Don't go food shopping when hungry. This reduces the risk of impulse buying
- Check "use-by" and "best before" dates. (Remember – you should not consume food past its "use-by" date. However, if something is past its "best before" date it can often still be safe to consume but may not be as fresh)
- Place frozen food straight in the freezer when you return home from shopping
- Always store and prepare food according to instructions
- Do not store opened foods in cans.Tin and iron can dissolve into the food and spoil it
Disposal of food waste
Of all the waste we throw into our general waste bins, 23% is food waste. A large proportion of that waste is fruit and vegetable scraps and other organic waste which is ideal for composting and worm farming.
By simply separating your organic waste and recycling it through a composting or worm farming system, you can do your bit to help reduce the amount of food waste that is sent to landfill.
If recycled correctly, organic waste such as food scraps and garden clippings can yield very high quality plant fertiliser for the garden. On average, half of the waste we generate per week is organic waste, which is currently being mixed with other household rubbish and sent to landfill. When organic waste sits in landfill, it produces carbon dioxide and methane gas which are both greenhouse gasses.
Composting is simply a method of converting organic materials into accessible nutrients which are useful around the home as an organic garden fertiliser. Composting replicates a natural recycling process that maintains soil nutrients and plant communities (known as the nutrient cycle). In nature, composting allows nutrients in the ecosystem to be used over and over again so as to sustain that ecosystem.
The easiest way to produce successful compost is to follow the A.D.A.M. recipe. A.D.A.M is an acronym which expresses the four most important elements of composting:
It is important to remember that your compost is a living system. It is rich with bacteria, microbes, fungi and many other critters all helping to break down your organic waste to create the rich, earthy, crumbly humus we know as compost. To compost successfully, you need to meet the needs of the living system and keep everything it is made up of, happy and healthy.
Maintaining a balance of diverse organic materials is key to keeping your compost critters happy, and as a result, producing quality compost. Some organic materials decompose slowly and have low moisture content; these are called 'browns' and are rich in carbon (C). Other organic materials decompose quickly and have high moisture content; these are called 'greens' and are high in nitrogen (N). In order to produce successful compost, you must have a balance of these materials.
Compostable green (nitrogen rich) materials:
- Leaves (green prunings)
- Grass (green clippings')
- Cow, horse or chicken manure
- Fruit and veggie scraps
- Coffee grounds
- Tea bags
- Hair from your brush or comb
Compostable brown (carbon-rich) materials:
- Dried leaves and dried grass clippings'
- Sawdust (non-treated)
- Wood shavings (non-treated)
- Hay and straw
- Vacuum cleaner dust
- Shredded paper
- Egg shells
Some items can only be composted by using a specialised high temperature system, otherwise they may attract pests such as rats, flies and cockroaches, and may also produce a nasty smell as they decompose.
- Fats and oils
- Meat products
- Dairy products
- Cat or dog faeces
- Any inorganic materials
As well as a diversity of organic materials, bacteria, microbes, fungi and all the other critters in your compost, need air to survive. Aerating your compost remixes organic materials to expose new surfaces, ensuring the decomposition process is undertaken by aerobic organisms. When there is sufficient air mixed into your compost, the pile will heat up and materials will break down faster. Aeration can be accomplished by using a compost fork, pitch fork or compost turner.
The final element to the A.D.A.M recipe is moisture. The living organisms in your compost all need water to survive. Some of this water derives from nitrogen rich, green materials, but the majority comes from an external source such as a hose, or the rain. It is important to remember that although your compost needs to be moist, it should not be too wet. If your compost gets too wet, nutrients may be lost through the bottom of the pile or, due to moisture induced compression, air may be lost from your compost. Adding water each time you add some organic material and/or sheltering your compost from heavy rain will allow your compost to maintain productive moisture content.
Feeding your leftover fruit and vegetable scraps to compost worms in a worm farm is a cheap and simple way of recycling your organic waste. Like composting, worm farming replicates the natural recycling process of organic materials by unlocking the nutrients and returning them back to the soil via worm castings and juice.
It is essential to only put the correct foods into a worm farm and not over-feed your worms. Always start by adding a small amount of scraps and gradually increasing this as and when the worms have consumed the previous amount.
The following organic waste materials are suitable to feed to composting worms:
- Shredded paper product
- Fruit and vegetable scraps (some exclusions)
- Grains, beans or breads (no butter, margarine or mayonnaise)
- Egg shells
- Tea bags
- Coffee grounds and paper filters
- Lawn clippings' and weeds'
Composting worms will eat almost anything but there are some organic materials that are not suitable in a worm farm as they may attract pests or make the worms unhealthy.
Avoid feeding your worms the following materials:
- Meat products
- Dairy products
- Oily products
- Large quantities of acidic fruit and vegetables (e.g. onions and citrus fruits)
- Large quantities of bread