Remember when your parents used to make you finish all of the food on your plate? Well, in addition to making sure you were fed, they also wanted to prevent food waste! Food waste negatively impacts food security, the environment and climate change. Estimates show that food waste is estimated at up to 40 percent of the food supply in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels which equates to approximately 133 billion pounds and $162 billion worth of food annually. From people throwing away limp vegetables to confusion over food expiration dates, large portions at restaurant being disposed of, overstocked grocery stores and farmers disposing of imperfect produce, food waste is a big problem across the country.

 

Food insecurity is a major problem across the country, especially given the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In New Jersey, nearly 14% of households are food insecure and struggle to find enough food weekly. Annually, food banks rescue around 3.6 billion pounds of food which is distributed to those in need. However, this represents only a small percentage of food that could have been donated but ended up in the trash.

Wasting food is a waste of money and harms the environment! Wasted food is a waste of the water, land, labor and energy which went into growing, producing, transporting, storing and disposing discarded food. For households, on average, they could save an estimated $370 per person annually. For a family of 4, this could produce an additional $1,500 in funds annually! For the environment, rotting food in landfills produce greenhouse gases. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has determined that food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills where it emits methane. Landfills accounted for 14.1% of methane emissions in 2017 and represent the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the country.

Solving the Food Waste Problem in Hudson County

Here in Hudson County, the problem of food waste is being tackled at the local level through municipal food waste collection programs. In 2015, Hoboken enacted one of New jersey’s first residential composting programs. Hoboken’s Residential Compost Drop Off Program allows residents to drop-off their compost for free or have it picked up for a monthly fee. Hoboken’s program offers 4 sites with an expansion to 12 sites planned this year. Accepted items include all food items such as fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, bones, grains, eggs & eggshells, coffee grounds, coffee filters, food-soiled paper, uncoated paper plates, tea bags and paper towels. These materials are collected and distributed to farms where they are recycled into compost, which is used to fertilize the soil

Launched in 2018, Jersey City’s Residential Compost Drop-Off Program provides residents with the option of dropping off their food waste daily at multiple locations across the City. The City also offers the Jersey City Backyard Composting Program which provides residents with discounted materials and free workshops. To date, the City has collected over 163,000 pounds of food scraps which has been transformed into compost.

For residents of North Bergen and Secaucus, stay tuned! Both towns are close to implementing a food waste drop-off pilot program. West New York is exploring the possibility of creating drop-off sites where residents can bring their food waste for recycling. The creation of these pilot programs is an ideal way for towns to go about creating a food waste program.

New Jersey’s Food Waste Recycling and Food Waste-to-Energy Production

Under recent regulations developed by the State of New Jersey, facilities which generate 52 tons of food waste or more annually must separate and recycle food waste. Eligible facilities include: commercial food wholesalers, distributors, industrial food processors, supermarkets, resorts, conference centers, banquet halls, restaurants, educational or religious institutions, military installations, prisons, hospitals, medical facilities and casinos. Facilities who do not currently have an authorized food waste facility within 25 road miles from their location are not required to source separate and recycle food waste at this time.

Under the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Food Waste Recycling and Food Waste-to-Energy Production Program, food waste is defined as: food processing vegetative waste; food processing residue generated from processing and packaging operations; overripe produce; trimmings from food, food product over-runs from road processing, soiled and unrecyclable paper generated from food processing; and used cooking fats, oil and grease.

Reducing Food Waste- It Starts at Home!

For residents with a backyard, a backyard composting bin is an easy way to reduce food waste while producing fertilizer for your lawn and garden. An organic material, compost, can be added to soil to support plant growth. Certain foods and yard waste can be placed into the compost bin which saves them from being sent to a landfill in a plastic garbage bag.

The soil produced in a compost bin is rich in nutrients and can be placed on flower beds, gardens, and lawns. This material is also cheaper than the bags of compost purchased at a store and is a natural fertilizer which eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers.

Compost enriches the soil which helps it to retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests. Compost also encourages the production of good bacteria and fungi which creates humus- a rich and nutrient-filled material. Humus (Not hummus, which is delicious!) acts like a sponge which can hold up to 90% of its weight in water to allow soil to remain moist for weeks longer than soil without humus.

What can you place in your compost bin? Organic materials including coffee grinds, fruits and vegetables; eggshells; grass clippings; leaves; nut shells; shredded newspapers and fireplace ashes. Compost bins should remain free of certain materials including meat or fish bones, yard clipping which have been treated with chemicals and pet waste.

Reducing food waste is easier than ever. Start at home or start local and help solve the problem!

Don’t forget to check out hcia.org to purchase a compost bin for your backyard. We’re happy to answer your composting questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

   

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