A big part of the holiday season involves gatherings of family and friends and, of course, food. Unfortunately, much of the food purchased between Thanksgiving and New Year’s goes to waste. According to The United States Department of Agriculture, Americans waste around 30-40% of our food supply on average, but that amount increases by 25% during the holidays.
Not only does food waste come at major economic and social costs, but when it is left to decompose in landfills or is incinerated, it leads to the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. According to the World Resources Institute, if food waste was a country, it would be the world’s third largest carbon emitter after the USA and China.
The best way to minimize food waste is to avoid generating it in the first place. There are simple ways to reduce food waste and prevent overbuying in your own home, like creating a meal plan and taking stock of your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer before heading to the store. Storing food appropriately to maximize its shelf life and using leftovers creatively can also help.
However, realistically, we can’t ensure that all our food gets eaten, but we can transform what does become food waste into valuable resources including energy and soil nutrients. The more food we divert from the garbage, the more we’re able to recover those valuable resources. So, what should Westfield residents do with their food waste?
1. Try backyard composting.
Compost is nature’s wonder—an ecosystem where worms and microbes work together to break down food (e.g., fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells) and plant matter, turning it into a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
You’ve heard that planting a tree can reduce your climate footprint, but did you know that soil stores carbon too—and a lot of it? That means applying compost to your soil can help pull carbon out of the atmosphere and fight climate change. It can also help reduce waste, conserve water by decreasing irrigation use, reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, suppress plant diseases, and protect against both erosion and flooding.
You can find step-by-step instructions and composting resources on sites like ecocycle.org/how-to-compost-in-your-backyard. There are foods you should avoid including in your compost, as noted in the article.
2. Drop off your food waste at the Westfield Conservation Center for recycling.
Residents can drop off food waste any time the Conservation Center is open. For hours of operation, visit the Town website at westfieldnj.gov/conservation.
The food waste is collected weekly and turned into biofuel to help power the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority. All types of food waste are acceptable, including dairy, fruits, grains, cooked and uncooked meats, seafood (except shells), vegetables, and even cookies and treats. The more food waste that’s recycled, the less power is needed from the electric grid, which in turn reduces Westfield’s sewage costs.
Recycling food waste at the Conservation Center is easy:
- Separate your food waste from other types of garbage.
- Store the food waste in a separate garbage container with a lid or in your freezer.
- Bring your food waste, either loose or in clear plastic bags (no black bags) and deposit it in the specially marked food waste recycling bin next to the blue sheds.
This holiday season let’s start a new tradition of paying close attention to the amount of food that goes to waste in our homes and choosing the method(s) that works best for us to recycle and transform it into a valuable resource.