Updated: Apr 15, 2020
How much food do you throw away each day? Since Americans waste
30-40% of all the food they buy, it’s probably a lot. And where do you put this uneaten food? Maybe some of it goes in the dog’s dish, but does the rest go in the trash can or down the garbage disposal? If so, you’re missing out on an incredibly easy way to reduce your trash, keep greenhouse gases contained, and enrich our communities’ agriculture, gardens and crops. We’ve put together a guide to help homeowners in MetroBoston reduce their food waste this spring.
If you live in Cambridge, you already have curbside pickups of scraps if you live in a building that has one to twelve units. The city started the curbside pickups this past April, after distributing the cute little green buckets to residents. The results of the program thus far have been significant, with more than 400,000 pounds of food collected since April 2 and a decrease of 10% in overall trash.
There is a bit of controversy here though: the scraps being collected are not actually being composted. Instead, they’re going to a water treatment plant, being mixed with sewage sludge, and broken down by “anaerobic digestion.” This process produces methane (which powers the treatment plant), treated water (which flows into the Merrimack River), and pellets (which fertilize hay fields in MA). Read this article
for more information and come to your own conclusion. Personally, I don’t care what they call it; the food scraps are not going to the landfill, a factory makes its own power, and the hayfields have fertilizer.
Wondering what you can put in those green containers? It's more than you think. Watch this video from Cambridge's Public Works Department to learn more.
The city of Somerville approaches composting differently, by encouraging individual households to compost their own scraps. Any resident can buy a top-quality composter for $90 at the Somerville Public Works Department and use it even in the tiniest outdoor space. You don’t have to live in Somerville for a discounted composter—go to your city or town’s public works department and ask what they offer. Or head to your hardware store and purchase your own.
If you’re not sure how to get started, this Better Homes & Garden article is simple and easy to follow.
No curbside pickup, no room for a composter, or no time to turn your compost pile? Have someone do it for you! Several companies specializing in composting serve the Metro Boston area. I live in Melrose and my family uses one of these services. We get a 5-gallon bucket and fill it with basically every single bit of unused food, including cheese, meat, and bones (big no-nos when composting at home because they attract rodents). On pickup day, we put the bucket out, they whisk it away, and we get a fresh bucket. And a few times a year, they bring us back some compost! We use Bootstrap Compost, but check out City Compost or Black Earth Compost as well. These service cost between $15-$40 a month, depending on how often they pick up your scraps. Our family has reduced our trash easily by half since starting this service.
Of course, the best way to keep food scraps out of landfills is to eat more of the food you buy. If you’re feeling brave, weigh all your food waste for a week and let that inform your buying choices! Consider planning your meals for the week, which can eliminate impulse buys and reduce waste. Shop a few times a week if possible and only buy what you need for the next day or two. Take action to reduce your food waste and your life will feel simpler and easier!