Holiday Food Waste and Composting

county of san diego watershed protection program


Thanksgiving meal

Holiday Food Waste Prevention and Diversion

With all the excitement of entertaining and feasting during the approaching holiday season, it can be easy to lose sight of all the food that gets wasted. Food waste can have harmful impacts on our environment, particularly on our landfills and waterways. Discarded food waste is the single largest material disposed of in U.S. landfills today, with about 40% of food produced in the United States going to waste. If we saved just 25% of the food currently wasted, it would be enough to feed all food-insecure Americans.

Food that ends up in landfills produces methane, a key driver of climate change that’s up to 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Food waste and food packaging can also pollute our waterways. If they are not disposed of properly, they can flow from our property through water runoff and into our storm drain system. Pollutants that enter our storm drain system are not treated and can ultimately end up in our local waterways and ocean.

Read on for some food waste prevention and diversion tips that can positively impact our waterways, all while preventing waste and ensuring you enjoy your holiday meals.

Food Waste Prevention/Reduction – Preventing food waste in the first place is key! From smart shopping and meal planning, to proper techniques for storing food, maximizing food lifespan and repurposing less-fresh foods, to buying unpackaged foods at local farmers’ markets , to donating extra food – all of these are simple ways you can make a big impact on reducing food waste. Attend I Love A Clean San Diego’s Organics Recycling Webinar on November 3rd from 5pm to 6pm to learn tips on meal prepping, food storage, low-waste cooking, and proper disposal of food waste through the County’s new curbside Organics Waste Recycling Program.  

Food Waste Diversion/Composting – Beyond reducing food waste, a great way to divert remaining organic waste is composting. Composting provides many benefits:

  • Soil – Improves soil health and fertility
  • Water – Helps soil hold more moisture, which reduces the need for frequent watering and minimizes erosion, runoff, and nutrient loss
  • Revitalize – Diverts valuable organic resources from the landfill, and encourages natural nutrient cycling
  • Money – Saves money by conserving water and replacing the need to purchase commercial fertilizers and soil amendments

Learn more about composting basics and various methods of composting, such as passive and active composting, vermicomposting (composting with worms), and the Bokashi method.  Check out the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation’s calendar throughout the year for in-person and online composting events. For additional composting questions, call Solana’s Rotline at 760-436-7986, extension 700.

Protect our Waterways – no matter how you dispose of your food waste, be sure to follow these best management practices to protect our waterways:

  • Place food waste in a covered bin or a home compost pile – even though food waste is natural and breaks down, it can harm our waterways by adding too many nutrients leading to excessive algae growth
  • Make sure the lid on your bin stays closed – that way wind, birds, or other animals don’t take the scraps out of the bin where they can end up in our water ways.

For information on other ways to recycle and to reduce landfill waste, prevent water pollution, and protect our environment, go to Waste Free San Diego and the County’s Recycle Right Program.

Food composting


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