Have you ever opened the refrigerator in search of a midnight snack and found a container stashed in the back that you’d entirely forgotten existed? You wouldn’t be the only one. A survey has discovered that 44% of people have at least one item in the fridge that they have forgotten about. The short shelf life of most foods means that there’s an increased chance of it ending up as landfill fodder.
When these numbers are put together from around the globe, it doesn’t paint a merry picture. The UN Food and the Agriculture Organization has discovered that nearly 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted across the globe every year. When delegated to landfills, wasted food can produce potent greenhouse gases, such as methane. While this wastage can occur at various levels, from farming and processing to transportation, it pays to keep a check on leftover food after consumption. If you’ve been on the hunt for eco-friendly ways to recycle leftovers, here’s how you can get started.
Contribute to a composting project
Instead of throwing leftover meals and groceries into the trash, help them serve a greater purpose by redirecting it for compost. Developing leftovers into nutrient-rich compost is one of the most eco-friendly ways to give your food a fresh lease of life — this includes eggshells, tea bags and nutshells as well. Most cities have a pickup vehicle that collects organic waste or you can have a word with your local waste collection facility to find ways to contribute.
If you’re looking to ensure that the remnants of last night’s dinner don’t end up in oceans and landfills, it pays to install recycling bins in your kitchen to allow efficient segregation of food. This includes spoiled fruits, vegetables and cooked food while plastic containers and packaging can be diverted for further recycling. Organic waste can then be directed towards local waste collection facilities and score a major win for the environment and your wallet as well — the town of Amherst in Hampshire County manages to save $1.8 million annually by adequate recycling of organic waste.
Before throwing leftovers in the bin, ask yourself if there’s any way to derive further use from them. Last night’s dinner could be creatively enhanced, or cooked up further to be this morning’s lunch. Banana peels can be put to a wide array of uses, from polishing silver to skincare remedies. Leftover fruits can be turned into a nutritious smoothie, while stale bread can be turned into breadcrumbs. By looking for creative ways to reuse your leftover food, we can take the first step towards constructing a circular economy where no element of produce is wasted.
Recycle food containers
When recycling leftover food, it is also necessary to pay attention to the containers that they come in. Takeaway food is generally packaged individually in plastic containers, making it a common culprit for increasing your plastic footprint. Further proof can be found in a study done by the Environmental Protection Agency: food containers alone contribute to over 23% of landfill content in countries like the United States. Before throwing something into the bin, separate the wrappers, cartons and packaging into a dedicated bin for recycling. To further aid your efforts when ordering food in, request the restaurant to avoid sending disposable cutlery and napkins.
Generate less waste
Needless to say, the easiest way to avoid having to deal with copious amounts of leftovers is to prevent the creation of waste to begin with. When planning your meals, think about adequate portion sizes to avoid generating any additional waste. If there are any leftovers, use that as the starting point for a new dish — leftover paneer bhurji (cottage cheese dish) can be turned into a delicious sandwich for tomorrow’s work lunch.
According to reports, every household generates 474 pounds of food waste each year on an average. While that can seem like an insurmountable figure, small steps is all it takes to dial down your individual generation of food waste. Ready to get started?