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Issues Of The Environment: Prevent Food-Waste During The Holidays And Beyond

Food Waste
Wikipedia Media Commons

When Thanksgiving dinner is done and eaten, family and friends go home with leftovers.  Still, it's likely you'll end up with food you have to throw away.  It's food waste, and it's a problem.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair talks to Washtenaw County solid waste specialist Noelle Bowman about the best ways to reduce food waste.

Magnitude of the Food Waste Problem

  • The amount of food wasted in the United States is staggering, 400lbs per person is thrown away annually.  That’s 40% of all food!  With food waste comes the issue of food-packaging waste.
  • 85% of that “waste” is happening at the back end of the chain, meaning at homes (43%) and consumer-facing business (40%) such as restaurants, grocery stores and institutions with food service.
  • Food waste is also negatively tied to natural resource conservation, climate change, and national security.
  • With the recent changes to what is accepted by China for recycling regarding allowable levels of “contamination”, it's more important than ever for consumers to properly clean their recyclables and not place non-recyclable items in the bin.  Noelle says, “If in doubt, throw it out!,” and that a dirty or missorted item (such as a plastic grocery bag in the recycling bin, or an unrinsed yogurt container) can contaminate an entire bail of recycling.
  • It will be interesting to see how Govenor-elect Whitmer address recycling.  Governor Snyder has voiced support for increasing the recycling rate to 30%, and for that to happen food waste (composting) would need to play a greater role.
  • More appalling is the fact that 1 in 7 Americans is considered food insecure, with 15% of those in Washtenaw County falling under this label.
  • Noelle Bowman, Solid Waste Program Specialist for Washtenaw County, is highly involved with the county’s “zero waste” programs and strategic plan for reducing the county’s burden on landfills.  She also participates with Ann Arbor's food waste collection program.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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