At the IWRC helping businesses, communities and organizations reduce waste is what we do. As the problems surrounding food waste become more and more prominent, IWRC is working to reduce this waste and divert it from the landfills but how many Americans know the facts about food waste? Better yet, how many Americans believe the myths associated with food waste? Our team of environmental specialists and waste experts are here to bust four of the most common myths we hear.
1. Food will easily decompose
A common thought running through many American minds is that food isn't like trash or garbage, “it will decompose after I throw it away.” Sadly, that is not how it works. Food needs soil, enzymes and microorganisms to decompose and since waste is tightly packed together in landfills, decomposition is restricted. As the IWRC Communications and Public Relations Manager, Joe Bolick put it, “A banana peel in a landfill will still be a banana peel in 20 years.”
To prevent waste from ending up in landfills, create your own composting station! Check out our Residential Composting Toolkit to get started!
2. Businesses will get sued if they donate food that makes people sick
Years of misheard information have led to this myth. Businesses and organizations that donate leftover food to local charities or shelters cannot be sued if their food makes someone sick. Tou are protected under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996. The Act “...provides protection to good faith donors of food from liability should the product later cause harm to its recipient.”
3. Ugly food is bad food
Are ugly people bad people? Of course not! Our need to be beautiful has carried over to our produce! When given a choice, people choose the better-looking product even if the nutritional value is the same. Businesses, stores and people throw tons of food away simply because it doesn't gleam with perfection. Think about it this way, before genetically modified food, a majority of produce was scuffed up and far from perfect. For example, a grocery store in Provins, France sells ugly produce at a reduced price. Their store increased shopper traffic and profits! We need to change our perfect produce mindset, it might make cents. Don’t discriminate against less than perfect food, it’s shallow.
4. Food waste isn’t a problem in landfills
Unfortunately, food waste in landfills is a massive problem that is only getting worse. According to Food Waste News, ⅓ of all food produced globally is wasted or thrown away. Where does all this food waste go? Mainly landfills. To bring it close to home, American’s contribute 96 billion pounds of food waste annually. Food waste is overcrowding American landfills, with each American on average producing over 200 pounds of food waste each year.
Let’s get specific to Iowa. The IWRC article, The Importance of Food Waste Reduction, referenced the 2011 Iowa Statewide Waste Characterization Study performed by the DNR and found 13.3% of all landfilled waste in Iowa is food waste. Also, that food waste is the number one category for municipal solid waste in Iowa. Food waste is a serious problem.
How to help with the food waste problem
So how do we prevent wasting precious food? It begins by changing our habits and lifestyle. Start simple, make a mental note of how much food you throw away on a daily basis. This will help jump start your challenge to reduce food waste! Other useful tips from IWRC Environmental Specialist, Jennifer Trent, include:
- Order half portions or share a meal when eating at a restaurant
Take an inventory of your fridge before cooking
Use a grocery list and stick to it
Freeze items you're not going to use right away
Learn to preserve, can foods or pickle foods
Store food properly for the longest shelf life
Realize expiration dates are sometimes peak quality dates and food can still be eaten past the date
For businesses and organizations, it is not much different. Inventory, monitor and change ordering habits accordingly. In addition, take advantage of donating edible food to local non-profit hunger relief agencies. It keeps food out of the landfill and ensures it gets used for its intended use - to feed.