Did you know that 15 percent of what goes into the Iowa City Landfill is food waste? That’s almost 18,000 TONS of food each year, just in Johnson County. What a waste! The City of Iowa City is working to reduce wasted food that ends up in the landfill. The commercial compost facility at the landfill can handle a lot of food waste (https://www.icgov.org/commercialorganics) but it's best not to waste food in the first place.
Wasted food means wasted money and wasted resources.
Food waste is a growing problem with profound financial and environmental impacts. When we throw away food, we also waste all the water and energy used to produce, package and transport food from the farm to our plates. According to the National Resources Defense Council:
- A typical American throws away around 20 pounds of food every month
- That 20 pounds of wasted food is worth about $28-43
- Twenty-five percent of all U.S. freshwater supplies go to produce food that gets wasted
Read more below to learn about reducing wasted food and composting!
REDUCE food waste: Food: Too Good To Waste Strategies
Households can make a significant difference in food waste and save money.
1. Smart shopping: Buy what you need
Make a shopping list with the Meals-In-Mind Shopping List template based on how many meals you expect to eat at home before your next shopping trip. By buying no more than what you expect to use, you will be more likely to use it up and keep it fresh. Make your shopping list based on how many meals you’ll eat at home and the timing of your next shopping trip. Will you eat out this week? Be realistic!
- Shop your fridge and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have.
- Include quantities on your shopping list to avoid overbuying. For fresh items, note how many meals you’ll make with each. For example: salad greens - enough for two lunches.
- Buy fresh ingredients in smaller quantities more often so you waste less while enjoying fresher ingredients.
- Choose loose fruit and vegetables over pre-packaged produce to better control the quantity you need and to ensure fresher ingredients.
- Keep a running list of meals that your household already enjoys. That way, you can easily choose a meal to prepare.
- Don’t think you have time for meal planning and lists? Try these free mobile apps and web-based tools to make it easier.
To learn more, view the FTGTW: Smart shopping: Buy what you need video.
2. Smart storage: Keep fruits and vegetables fresh
We waste fresh fruits and vegetable most often. We usually overbuy or don’t use them in time. Store fruits and vegetables for maximum freshness; they’ll taste better and last longer, helping you to eat more of them.
- Fruit and vegetable storage guide
- Learn which fruits and vegetables stay fresh longer inside or outside the fridge.
- Separate very ripe fruit from fruit that isn’t as ripe. Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other produce spoil faster.
- Check out Eureka Recycling's A to Z Food Storage Tips to learn how to store almost any food.
- Have produce that’s past its prime? It may still be fine for cooking. Think soups, sauces, pies or smoothies.
- Use your freezer. If you can’t eat a food in time, you can often freeze it for later.
- Learn more about safe freezing and canning.
To learn more, view the FTGTW: Smart Storage video.
3. Smart prep: Prep now, eat later
Prepare perishable foods soon after shopping. It will be easier to whip up meals later in the week, saving time, effort and money.
- When you get home from the farmers market, store or garden, take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice and place your fresh food items in clear storage containers for snacks and easy cooking.
- Befriend your freezer and visit it often.
- Cut your time in the kitchen by preparing and freezing meals ahead of time.
- Prepare and cook perishable items, then freeze them for use throughout the month. For example, bake and freeze chicken breasts or fry and freeze taco meat. See Preserving food: freezing prepared foods.
4. Smart saving: Eat what you buy
Be mindful of old ingredients and leftovers you need to use up. You’ll waste less and may even find a new favorite dish.
- Move food that’s likely to spoil soon to the front of a shelf or designated “eat now” area. Print out an Eat me first label to stick on a box or shelf.
- Make a list each week of what needs to be used up and plan meals around it.
- Learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by” and expiration dates.
- Are you likely to have leftovers from any of your meals? Store them in lunch-sized portions so they are ready to go the following morning and/or plan an "eat the leftovers" or “smorgasbord” night each week.
- Casseroles, frittatas, soups and smoothies are great ways to use leftovers and odds and ends. Search for websites that provide suggestions for using leftover ingredients.
- Share food you won’t get around to eating with friends or neighbors before heading out of town.
To learn more, view the FTGTW Love your leftovers video.
Use some or all of these resources to help your household reduce food waste and save money!
COMPOST at the curb
Iowa City residents with curbside trash, recycling and yard waste services from the City of Iowa City can now put food waste at the curb for pick-up; it will be composted with yard waste at the commercial compost facility at the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center.
How to participate:
· Purchase a 35-gallon leakproof container with a tight-fitting lid.
· Purchase City of Iowa City annual Yard Waste Sticker. Stickers may be purchased at City Hall for $25 for the year (April 1 to March 31) or $12 after October 1 (good through March 31). One sticker is needed per container used.
· Food waste may be placed in the same container as yard waste, with the same sticker.
· Set your container out by 7 am on your regular trash, recycling and yard waste collection day. Please note: container must weigh less than 50 pounds.
What is acceptable?
· All fruits and vegetables matter: peelings, cores, etc.
· All grain products
· Non-liquid dairy products (no milk, please). Items cooked with milk and other dairy are acceptable.
· Meat and seafood (raw or cooked, including bones and shells)
· Eggs and eggshells
· Pizza and pizza boxes
· Coffee grounds/filters, tea and tea bags
· Leftovers, plate scrapings
· Spoiled foods
· Paper leftover containers from restaurants, but NOT plastic or foam containers
· Uncoated paper that has been in contact with food: napkins, paper towels, pizza boxes, uncoated paper plates, uncoated paper cups
· Small quantities of grease and fat (Do you have large quantities of frying grease? We’re working on getting a program in place to take this!)
· Compostable service ware such as spoons, forks, plates, etc. that are certified ASTM D6400. The Biodegradable Products Institute has a list of ASTM D6400 certified items at http://www.bpiworld.org/BPI-Public/Approved.html.
· Not sure? Don’t compost it!
What is NOT acceptable?
· plastic or foam coated paper coffee cups or plates
· plastic, Styrofoam, metal or glass
· foil- or plastic-coated paper
· waxed or coated paper (ie, grocery store meat wrapping paper)
· cigarette butts and ashes
· hazardous or medical waste
· Saran wrap and cellophane
· pet waste and litter
Questions? Please contact the Recycling Coordinator at 319-887-6160 or email@example.com.
· Residents are responsible for keeping containers clean.
· Wrapping food waste in newspaper may reduce mess within the container.
· If bags are used, they must be unlined paper or biodegradable, compostable bioplastic. If in doubt, use paper bags or newspaper!
· Regular trash bags and single-use plastic bags are not compostable and will not be picked up.
· Keep it clean! Clean, non-contaminated food waste is turned into clean, high-quality compost. If in doubt, throw it out! Food waste contaminated with plastic, metal, glass or other garbage makes low-quality compost.
· Yard waste routes are not run from January 28 through March 12. Keep food waste in the freezer during this time to save it for when collection resumes.
The Iowa Waste Reduction Center at the University of Northern Iowa is working to reduce food waste across the state. Learn more at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nciqfJ8wz0g.
Table to Table is a local non-profit organization that rescues edible food and gets it to organizations in Iowa City which can use it. Learn more or volunteer at http://www.table2table.org/.
Many local restaurants and grocery stores are working to reduce food waste and compost their organics at the Iowa City Landfill’s commercial compost facility (www.icgov.org/commercialorganics). Over the past seven years, more than 850 tons of food waste organics have been diverted from the landfill and composted, and more restaurants and grocery stores are getting involved each year. Businesses are encouraged to check out the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge at https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-frc.
Homes without curbside service from the City can hire a private service for pick-up: http://www.thecompostninja.com/.
Compost at home: Composting at home is a good way to deal with food scraps. Learn about backyard composting.
Contact Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jordan.