Garbage, Compost, and Spoilage

A great deal of household garbage is produced in the kitchen. As part of the preparation process, inedible or unappetizing parts of food— peels, seeds, bones, shells, rinds, fat, gristle and stems—are removed for disposal. All sorts of metal, glass, paper, cardboard or plastic packaging is accumulated. After a typical meal, food scraps remain.

Understanding that different types of waste can—and should—be managed differently creates opportunities for reducing the environmental impact of the waste generated in North American kitchens.

Types of waste

Generally, waste could be liquid or solid waste. Both of them could be hazardous. Liquid and solid waste types can also be grouped into organic, re-usable and recyclable waste.

dishes-691541_1280Liquid type:

Waste can come in non-solid form. Some solid waste can also be converted to a liquid waste form for disposal. It includes point source and non-point source discharges such as storm water and wastewater. Examples of liquid waste include wash water from homes, liquids used for cleaning in industries and waste detergents.

Solid type:

Solid waste predominantly, is any garbage, refuse or rubbish that we make in our homes and other places. These include disposable storage containers, old newspapers, broken tools, and even food waste. They may include any waste that is non-liquid.

Hazardous type:

Hazardous or harmful waste are those that potentially threaten public health or the environment. Such waste could be inflammable (can easily catch fire), reactive (can easily explode), corrosive (can easily eat through metal) or toxic (poisonous to human and animals). In many countries, it is required by law to involve the appropriate authority to supervise the disposal of such hazardous waste. Examples include fire extinguishers, old propane tanks, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment (e.g, thermostats) and lamps (e.g. fluorescent bulbs) and batteries.

Recyclable type:

Recycling is processing used materials (waste) into new, useful products. This is done to reduce the use of raw materials that would have been used. Waste that can be potentially recycled is termed “Recyclable waste”. Aluminum products (like soda, milk and tomato cans), Plastics (grocery shopping bags, plastic bottles), Glass products (like wine and beer bottles, broken glass), Paper products (used envelopes, newspapers and magazines, cardboard boxes) can be recycled and fall into this category.

 

What is food loss and food waste?

Food waste is simply food intended for consumption that is discarded along the food supply chain and cannot be used.

rotting-potatoes-185928_1280There are many reasons why food is thrown away. As household members, we see lots of food waste occurring in our homes and places we go to, such as schools, work places and parks. But the bigger picture is more worrying, as the bulk of it occurs through out the entire journey that food makes from the farms, through storage, processing, transport, market and finally to our homes.

In terms of waste management, food waste is that kind of waste resulting from food that is thrown away. See other types of waste here

Food waste could be accidental or unintentional, and may also be intentional.

If food that is fit for consumption gets spilled during harvesting or transport, or go bad in storage, or rot in the market, we call it food loss. They usually happen accidentally.

On the other hand, if we go to the restaurant and heap our plates, eat a little and throw the rest in the trash bin, that would be food waste. If we buy more food from the market than we actually need, due to bad planning, and see them rot in our homes instead of giving them away, that is waste too. If a restaurant throws away the rest of the food that was not purchased or eaten, that too, is food waste.

Food waste and food loss both end up with the same result: food waste!

It is worth noting that food waste and food loss directly relates to waste of money, time, energy, land, and many more resources.

 

Composting

green-waste-513609_1280

In general terms, residue (by-products) from food crops and animal parts such as shells from shelled nuts, leaves of carrots and orange peels, beet leaves and many roots, by-products from pork, are not considered food waste. They are called ‘inedible items’. They may be used for producing animal feed and other pharmaceuticals. Food waste and food loss only includes those intended for human consumption.

Kitchen composting (a.k.a. countertop composting) is like the Boston Terrier of the compost world – it’s not as big as its backyard brother, but don’t underestimate the strength of these pint-size piles.

 

Why Compost?

There are two reasons to countertop compost:

1. To compost items on a smaller scale to use as plant food.

Unlike large-scale compost piles, the point of this kitchen composting system isn’t to create super nutrient rich fertilizer – it’s to make plant food that you can give to your plants on a weekly basis.

2. To collect food items in the kitchen until you transfer them to a larger compost bin in your yard or neighborhood.

That way, you’re not hauling scraps outside every day.

 

How to Kitchen Compost

You’ll need: container, drill, charcoal filter (the type used for cat litter boxes), scissors, glue, large spoon or bowl scraper and a food processor (optional)

1. Choose a container.

  • You can go the upcycle route and use an old metal container (coffee cans work well), or you can purchase a countertop compost jar (check online retailers or stores like Williams-Sonoma).
  • If you’re only temporarily storing food until it goes outside, your bin doesn’t need holes.
  • If you’re making plant food, either drill holes in the lid yourself or purchase a bin with holes.

 

2. Prevent stink (and bugs).

  • Cut a circle of charcoal filter that can fit tightly in the underside of the container lid. Glue the filter to the lid.
  • Oxygen will still move through the lid holes, but the filter will keep bugs out and prevent odors.

 

3. Make some compost.

  • As you prepare a meal, toss raw foods into your container. If you’re not sure what can be composted, check out this list of items to avoid.
  • Every time something is added to the container, mix it up with a spoon or bowl scraper. Store your container on the countertop (hence the name) or under the sink.

 

4. Process your compost (optional).

  • This isn’t necessary, but it does make it easier for you to use your kitchen compost as plant food.
  • When the compost bin is full, run the items through a food processor (a powerful blender will also work) until it’s a course mix. Then, add the mix to your plant soil.
  • Tip: If you live in a dry region, it helps to combine the mixture with peat moss to prevent dry clumps.

 

How Food Spoils

age-1238316_1280Food spoilage and deterioration is no accident. It is a naturally occurring process. To understand how to maintain the quality of food and prevent spoilage, we need to know what can cause it. Factors that affect food spoilage include:

  • Microorganisms
  • Enzymes
  • Air
  • Light
  • Insects, Rodents, Parasites and Other Creatures
  • Physical Damage
  • Temperature
  • Time

 

Despite the heterogeneity in raw materials and processing conditions, the microflora that develops during storage and in spoiling foods can be predicted based on knowledge of the origin of the food, the substrate base and a few central preservation parameters such as temperature, atmosphere, and pH. While the chemical and physical parameters are the main determining factors for selection of spoilage microorganisms, a level of refinement may be found in some products in which the interactive behavior of microorganisms may contribute to their growth and/or spoilage activity.

Among the important criteria determining the type of spoilage are the nature of the food preserved, the length of time before it is consumed, and the handling methods needed to process the foods. Various criteria determine which preservation methods are used.

 

The effects of spoilage

Protein food
They go putrified when they are contaminated. This is the situation where protein foods rot, and produce very bad smell.

Fats and oils
They go rancid. This is the condition where food containing fats and oils begin to smell and tasted bad when they are old.

Carbohydrates
Cooked cereals become marshy and slimy when affected by micro-organisms. This condition is known as serenasis. Flour products smell and taste unpleasant when they are spoilt. They are described as being stale.

Fruits and vegetables
They rot, ferment and decay.

 

Spoiled Food Vs. Hazardous Food

It’s important to note that spoiled food isn’t necessarily dangerous food. For one thing, most people won’t eat food that smells bad, looks slimy or whatever. And you can’t get food poisoning from something you didn’t eat.

Moreover, the microorganisms that cause ordinary food spoilage aren’t necessarily harmful to us. In fact, centuries before refrigerators, the earliest sauces and seasonings were used to mask the “off” tastes and smells of food that had begun to spoil.

This continues to be true in parts of the world where people don’t have home refrigeration units (which, interestingly enough, includes most people alive on the planet today).

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