Throwing out food isn’t considered a pollutant- or is it?

An article written by The Washington Post in 2018 explains the environmental impact made by wasted food.

“If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of impact on global warming.”- The Washington Post

You may be thinking, since food is biodegradable, isn’t it ok to throw it out? Well, you are right in the sense that properly composted food is good for soil health. Unfortunately, food waste that decomposes in landfills releases a gas that is bad for humans and the environment, called methane. This means that whenever you throw away food scraps, or spoiled food from your fridge, you are unknowingly contributing to a mass release of this bad chemical! Methane stays in the air for about a decade before it reacts quickly with other chemicals and eventually forms carbon dioxide. It is likely that you have heard of this pollutant, which makes it difficult for humans to breathe. Carbon dioxide and methane both contribute to global warming, which has many issues of its own. So, what can you do about this? The easiest way to minimize this problem is to buy portions that you know you will eat, and bring a container for leftovers when eating out. There are many ways to be creative with food scraps, and if possible, start composting!

I was personally surprised that something as simple as food releases methane into the environment. I am used to learning about releases of harmful chemicals from power plants, factories, and other industrial sources. I thought something as innocent as biodegradable food could not cause much harm to the environment. I was surprised to learn that food composting would give such a different outcome than a pile of food on the ground would. I care about this because I want to make eco-conscious choices so that I can take care of the Earth we all live on. I study environmental sciences, and I am always intrigued and surprised when learning about a new source of pollution, or general harm to the environment. I try to have an eco-friendly lifestyle where I see the earth’s resources in a circular manner, rather than a linear one. What I mean by this is that I aim to make purchases of items that will regenerate within my lifetime, rather than in thousands of years.

I agree with this article’s statements of the impact that this food waste issue has on humans. I see how the problem can mostly be avoided just through better organization. A big issue in the US is that consumers waste a lot of food, and I know that we can do better by planning meals in advance, and being sure that we can eat what we buy. I am part of this problem too, and I think spreading awareness on this topic is the first step towards positive change. This issue affects everyone, especially those living in “developed countries,” where consumer waste is a bigger problem than in “developing countries.”

One thought on “Throwing out food isn’t considered a pollutant- or is it?

  1. Other than composting, I wonder what other ways we can reduce food waste that is easier to implement? When I lived in the city of Philadelphia, houses in the city did not have a backyard like most houses in the suburb where people can grow plants and actually compost because the soil can be used for their plants. In the city, composting is rarely being used. I wonder if there was another way to re-use these food scraps or if there is a better way of throwing them away without “throwing” them away? It is interesting to think about how such a small thing like food can cause such huge effects to the environment!

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