Reducing Your Carbon Footprint: With Food Waste Management
Climate change is becoming an increasingly pressing problem, and socially responsible people and businesses are concerned about reducing their carbon footprint. Waste management is one of the options they are looking at.
However, the question is, can a good waste management strategy improve your carbon footprint?
The short answer? Yes, it can.
But, first, let’s discuss what carbon footprint means.
What is carbon footprint, and why is it important?
Carbon footprint refers to the net amount of greenhouse gases (GHG), including carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), released in the process of any activity undertaken by an individual or organisation. Let’s take the example of a pair of jeans. Growing cotton is mostly carbon-neutral, but once it is harvested, it undergoes several processes.
The fibres are carded, combed, and brushed. They are then spun to form yarn. The yarn is dyed and woven into denim fabric. The fabric is laid out, the patterns marked and cut, and the pieces are sent to be stitched. Once the stitching is completed, the jeans might be sent for various finishes. Finally, the jeans are washed, ironed, labelled and packed. Each of these steps often happens in a different location, sometimes thousands of miles apart meaning there is significant transportation, even before the item is transported to the retailers, again often via convoluted routes.
Each of these processes, including transportation, contributes to the carbon footprint of the pair of jeans a person buys and wears.
Similarly, all businesses have their own carbon footprint depending on their processes and the waste they generate.
Your carbon footprint is important because the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere contributes to global warming. Since the quantity of CO2 you release impacts the environment, it is an important metric that measures how environmentally friendly your choices and activities are.
Ideally, you want to be as carbon-neutral as you possibly can. It helps the planet, and it also helps your business because you then have fewer pollutants to report.
How does your waste contribute to your carbon footprint?
The environmental impact of your waste is two-fold—its carbon footprint before and after use. Obviously, the former is the effort and energy it took to create the object, whether it is a garment, paper, vehicle, or the food you consume.
The latter is the effort it takes to “get rid” of the waste. So, if your waste ends up in a landfill, your carbon footprint would include the step of waste collection and transportation, of course. However, it would also include the damage it does to the environment by virtue of decomposing in a landfill.
What happens to food waste in landfills?
Food waste can be especially insidious because the general assumption is, food will simply decompose and become part of the soil or be eaten by birds and animals. However, that’s not what happens.
When food waste is thrown with general rubbish, it doesn’t undergo the composting or digestion process. In a landfill, it simply undergoes anaerobic decomposition, which releases methane and carbon dioxide, two of the most harmful greenhouse gases. Most of these gases simply escape into the atmosphere and add considerably to your carbon footprint.
How can a good waste management strategy help?
A good waste management strategy can be extremely beneficial in managing your carbon footprint. It helps not just in managing your food waste but also in reducing waste through mindful use.
A good waste management strategy doesn’t just give you a plan for dealing with waste. It also helps you identify the steps where wastage is happening, which allows you to fix the issue.
Food waste can be divided into three categories:
- Avoidable food waste: Food and drink that was edible at some point before disposal
- Possibly avoidable food waste: Food and drink that some people eat while others do not, or that can be eaten when prepared one way but not another
- Unavoidable food waste: Waste generated during food and drink preparation that is not, and has never been, edible
As you can see, unavoidable food waste is, as the name suggests, unavoidable. Food prep by-products like egg shells and animal bones are inevitable and cannot be consumed.
The first two categories can be managed. However, the category that will benefit most from an effective waste management strategy is avoidable food waste.
If you’re interested in learning how to minimise your food waste, we have two older posts with strategies for reducing waste in the food and hospitality sector as well as how local authorities help reduce household food waste.
With proper planning, you can reduce your food waste, and, as a result, your carbon footprint. If you want to reduce it even further, you might want to consider redistributing the food that can be consumed safely.
Finally, any unavoidable food waste you generate can be sent for anaerobic digestion. This can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
Firstly, GHGs generated in breaking down the waste with this method are captured and used for sustainable energy generation. So, your food waste doesn’t have as much environmental impact as it would in a landfill.
Secondly, the remaining material at the end of the digestion process makes a nutritious biofertiliser. This nitrogen-rich material reduces the reliance on chemical fertilisers. And, it also closes the loop, using plant and animal waste and converting it into food for the soil, which then grows more plants that feed livestock as well as people.
Recycling Your Food Waste with BioteCH4
Does your business produce food waste, increasing your carbon footprint? We’d be happy to help you plan a waste reduction and management strategy. Get in touch to have a chat with us.