Grinding Food vs. Sending It to Landfill

Jacqueline Mullin

The modern way of dealing with waste involves a series of steps, all of which contribute to climate change. Embracing alternative solutions, such as grinding food not only reduces the volume of waste sent to landfills but also presents an opportunity to create energy from food waste.

Just under half of all garbage in U.S landfills is comprised of food scraps. While composting programs have been widely supported around the globe, a survey conducted by an American Technology company found that over 70 percent of respondents still throw food scraps in the trash.

Garbage makes its way to landfills via trucks after having sat in homes, businesses or on street corners for varying amounts of time. Once at the landfill, all waste is disposed of together and in the same manner, causing food scraps to be buried alongside non-food waste. The high level of carbon in food scraps transforms into methane (a dangerous greenhouse gas) as it decomposes. While some landfills are actively working to capture methane, the size of landfill sites and the random scattering of food scraps amongst non-food waste makes the collection process challenging.

An alternative to sending food scraps to landfills is food waste disposers, which have been a part of many home and commercial kitchens for over 75 years. Designed to grind food scraps, the appliance is connected to the waste stream infrastructure of a home or business allowing seamless movement of the sludge from one location to another via the municipal sewer system. Once limited in the types of food it could process, modern food waste disposers are able to pulverize everything from bones to avocado pits.

Today, many waste water treatment plants are employing anaerobic digestion processes in order to turn waste into biogas, which can be used as a renewable energy source. Additionally, the approximately 30 percent of food scraps that cannot be turned into a liquid and used to create energy from food waste are isolated and processed into fertilizer.

Originally marketed as a tool of convenience, food waste disposers are now understood to be a vital tool in the fight against climate change. The abundance of food scraps in landfills suggests that the population may benefit from more education about the connection between food waste and climate change, and the potential to obtain energy from food waste.