North Carolina released a 2012 study revealing an annual food waste generation rate of over a million tons in the state. The volume represented at least 12 percent of NC’s municipal solid waste stream. It was slightly lower than the U.S. as a whole, which was around 14 percent in 2010.
As a nation, we’ve made solid progress in recycling some materials. But food waste isn’t one of them. The national food waste recovery/recycling rate is only around 3 percent. What remains — 33 million tons — goes to landfills and incinerators. North Carolina is doing a bit better than that. It diverts about 60,000 of those 1 million-plus tons generated or about 6 percent. But that still puts 94 percent into the disposal stream.
Scott Mouw, North Carolina’s recycling program director, calls food waste “the next frontier for reducing landfill dependence.” We say it’s that and more. Food waste, when composted and used as a soil amendment, is a key to reducing stormwater volumes and related pollution. Its use cuts dependence on chemicals and foreign oil, saves water, and so much more.
Landfills and WTE — diverting food waste?
Burning and burying resources are wasteful and environmentally-unfriendly practices. Plus, these types of disposal can be more expensive than recycling systems with composting as the core technology.
It’s time to abandon the exuberantly wasteful practices and technologies of the old century and get on with the new. Building a modern waste management infrastructure is both environmentally and economically responsible.