Food waste isn’t something spoken of over the holidays when part of the fun is making old family recipes and treats we seldom eat. While some items may get folks licking the bowl, others are simply left out too long or forgotten in the back of the refrigerator filled with leftovers. When this happens, the food goes into the garbage and off to the landfill.
How much food goes to the landfill, 97% of all unwanted food in the United States is currently incinerated or landfilled. The food decomposes slowly and contributes to the methane released by landfills. Will County’s Prairie View landfill captures most of the methane and turns it into electricity, but there is far more we could do with our food scraps and unwanted or soured leftovers.
When we compost food, it becomes fertilizer and can save both energy and water when used to grow new plants. We can begin a compost in our back yard, at our school, at our church or workplace. The County Land Use Department is home to four worm bins in downtown Joliet. The worms stay in the bins, eating banana peels, apple cores, lettuce leaves, grapes and an occasional citrus peel. They turn the food into potent fertilizer and make more worms which we harvest to create worm bins for school classrooms.
At home, several employees have compost bins that break down grass clippings, weeds and leaves, along with a wide array of food items. We exclude meat, dairy and oil from the back yard composts.
However, all the unwanted food items are accepted in some programs being launched around the country and, right here in the Chicago suburbs. Oak Park is one the first communities to launch a food collection program for residents. Upscale Chicago restaurants are purchasing local food grown with the compost because they claim both the flavor and the nutrients of the food is improved when grown in soil mixed with finished food compost.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, please visit willcountygreen.com’s Green Guide and see the page on Composting.