What Is The Best Food Waste System For You?
It’s researched that 30-40% of our food goes to waste and when that food waste goes to landfill it produces the greenhouse gas Methane which is a major problem here in NZ.
10% of New Zealand’s methane emissions are from organic matter in landfills alone which is alarmingly high. There is often a misconception that when organic matter is sent to landfill it naturally ‘composts’ but this isn’t the case at all. When organic matter is sent to landfill it’s forced to decompose in a very different environment without oxygen and the microbes that would be found in a compost system.
The best way to help to divert as much food waste from landfills as possible is making sure that you have a system in place that works for you and your household. It means that you are no longer sending this waste to landfill and the system fit’s and suits in with your time, resources and energy. This ensures that you don’t find it a burden and eventually resort back to just chucking your food scraps in the bin again.
There are so many easy, cheap and practical ways to manage your food waste and it doesn’t have to all be about composting as sometimes depending on time, location and resources this option just isn’t viable for everyone. We have put together our suggestions on the best food waste systems which are all very different and all have their place either working separately or even better together if you do have the time and space to do so.
Composting the process of speeding up the decomposition of organic matter using oxygen and millions of microbes. The process of composting is very different to what happens in a landfill where this waste is forced to try and break down without oxygen and these microbes. Home composting systems are an amazing way to create food waste into a desirable product which can then be used on your garden or for pot plants.
With composting it is important to remember you want a good balance of both living and dead materials and to layer these materials. The living includes nitrogen rich resources such as food scraps, grass clippings, manure and garden clippings. The dead elements include carbon rich sources such as cardboard, paper and dried leaves. Composting is also an amazing way to divert paper and cardboard from waste systems where it may not be recycled.
Home composting systems can be made or come in many different sizes depending on your space and how large you need. If you have the space a pallet compost system is perfect as it uses another waste product turns it into a valuable longterm resource. We have a 3 bay pallet composting system so this allows us to have multiple compost piles on the go at any one time increasing the amount of compost we can produce.
Small Scale Composting
If you have space restrictions there are so many small scale composting systems which do the same thing as a large scale system. You can use buckets, large garbage bin or whatever you have on hand. You just follow the ‘layering’ principles with the nitrogen and carbon rich materials ensuring the correct balance.
Worms are another awesome powerhouse for turning food waste into a highly desirable by-product which you can then use. Worm farms are a great option is you have limited space and it might not be practical to set up a compost system where you live - say in an apartment block. With worm farms you can create them to a size that suits your space and you may have a couple of small ones on the go.
Worm Towers are ultimately worm farms in the ground. They are set up in your garden beds and you layer and feed your scraps to the worms in the worm tower where the worms live. This is a great option which helps to improve your soil fertility and microbial community whilst in ground. We have these set up in each of our garden beds now and we just rotate the scraps around to each tower each week and the worms do their job.
Chickens are great waste machines. They are the perfect animal to help to divert waste from landfill. If you do not have the space for your own chickens then consider asking a neighbour if you could feed your scraps to their hens if they have them. We have recently just got chickens and we now have 4-5 families feeding their scraps to them which is beneficial for everyone.
Sometimes the community around us is a great option for helping to divert food waste. If you can’t set up your own food waste system at home look around and think about the options that might be available to you within your community.
You may have a neighbour like us who would absolutely love your food scraps for their systems they have in place or your local kindy or preschool may have chickens you can feed.
Community gardens are popping up more and more now in lots of different communities. If there is one in your local community then get in touch with them to see if if is an option for you to provide your food scraps to them on a weekly basis. You can then save your food scraps in a sealed bucket and drop them off when its convenient to you.
We are hopeful that local governments will soon step up and introduce more food waste collection services which then will take food waste and create a valuable resource from it. Although these collection systems will create jobs, create a valuable by-product they unfortunately will also come with their own environmental impacts such as carbon emissions and impact on land where commercial facilities will be set up. Our advice is if it’s practical and achievable to create your own ‘localised’ food waste system at your own home or a neighbours then this is definitely the way forward.