Food Waste: Is it waste?

Food waste, and creating food waste, is often marketed in a negative light (from both government and media outlets), with many campaigns providing ways to reduce or eliminate food waste. But what if all this negative hype around food waste wasn’t entirely true?

The buzz around food waste from government and media outlets is abundantly clear – “reduce your food waste or the environment will suffer.” And while in some facets this reigns true, there is a much larger, more positive approach to food waste that is very rarely publicized. What if food waste wasn’t considered a waste at all, but as an input to create a renewable resource?

To start, we want to make it clear this blog post is not providing you a clear conscious about wasting food excessively. Having to discard large amounts of food is not good for the environment and should be avoided when possible. The amount of natural resources that go into growing, picking, processing, preparing and transporting that food is significant. However, and it’s a big however, some food waste is unavoidable – and you shouldn’t have to feel bad for ‘wasting’ it.

What is unavoidable food waste? Think fruit/vegetable peels, cores, stalks, pest problems and even food that accidentally falls on the floor (or in my case, have a toddler that purposely throws the food on the floor for ‘fun’). Food waste happens but it doesn’t need to be so negative– it is not necessarily a ‘waste’, but an input source for renewable resources.

In our method of organic food waste collection here at Davidson Environmental, we bring all the food waste (some avoidable and unavoidable – like we said – food waste happens) to a biogas plant that can turn that food waste/organics/biomass into fertilizer and capture its off gasses (biogas) to create renewable natural gas (RNG). If you want to learn more about the biogas process, go to our website or read our “Composting vs. Anaerobic Digestion” blog post.

With that said, food waste/organic waste that enters the biogas process is being reused for multiple outlets (fertilizer and biogas/RNG/electricity). This is far from being considered a waste, don’t you think? With natural gas being such a finite resource, creating RNG can be a game changer for the electricity and natural gas grid/industry. The fertilizer as well can be useful for farm application to replenish soils from depleted resources. Again, doesn’t sound like a ‘waste’ to me!


What the media conveniently misreports is the real problem with food waste. It is really only a waste if it ends up in a landfill. This should be avoided at all costs because those gases that create biogas are freely emitted into the atmosphere which is bad for the environment and climate change. This is what makes food waste bad, but it is often not detailed out to allow the general public to understand that perspective. Unfortunately, landfills are the third-largest source of human-generated methane emissions in North America. Government and media need to shift their outlook and information on food waste and convey the real problem – landfills are filling up (and running out of room) and can no longer sustain extra waste. This does not apply to only food waste, but to all waste.

Given this, shifting our focus from the negative aspects of food waste to the positive ones will help to make the topic of food ‘waste’ much less controversial. So what do you think? Is food waste really a waste?

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