Last year, I learned that Americans collectively generate 25% more waste between Thanksgiving to the New Year.
This was heartbreaking to say the least. This extra waste was going to be in addition to the tremendous amount of waste we saw in 2020. Unfortunately, the graph measuring the City’s Zero Waste Goal (reduction in trash sent to the landfill by 90% by 2040) was spiking upward, not down.
While gathering my thoughts for this column, I was reminded that I shouldn’t believe everything I read or hear, that I should seek to understand and that I should comprehend the bigger picture before letting my feelings get the best of me.
While Americans generate and discard 25% more waste from Thanksgiving to the New Year, Bexley residents do not – at least regarding trash and recycling. Over the last three years, by weight, the amount of material we’ve sent to the landfill and to be recycled in the last five weeks of the year is consistent with the amount sent over the course of the year. I was astonished, and so proud of our community.
And then I remembered that unlike many places in America, we don’t throw our excess food in the trash. This seems to be what the statistic is referencing. In December 2019, Bexley residents set out 16% more food in the curbside food-waste recycling program than what was put out, on average, during the rest of the year. Last year, it was 32%.
While this does correlate with an additional 16 participating households in 2019 and more 25 in 2020, the increased number serves as a reminder that we are wasting too much food.
It’s good that our excess food isn’t going to the landfill, but it would be great if we didn’t have excess food to begin with. Composting is one of the least impactful actions we can take to reduce food waste, and is oftentimes last on a list of Rs (refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot). It’s time for us to reduce the amount of food we put in our compost receptacles.
This season, let’s take extra care to not contribute to the statistics. The best steps we can take toward reducing food waste are simple:
• Buy only what you’re going to use to feed people or animals.
• Plan your menus not only for what can be served at holiday meals, but what can be served as leftovers: turkey becomes sandwiches and soup; mashed potatoes become croquettes or Shepherd’s pie.
• Ask your guests to bring reusable containers to your dinner and send them home with leftovers.
• Determine what freezes well and put it in your freezer instead of in the bucket.
Make it a goal that no edible food ends up in the bin; reserve that space for seeds, shells, pits and peels. We’re on the right track, but we always can be better and set the example for our neighbors across central Ohio. Learn how to do so at greenbexley.org/food.
Elizabeth Ellman is chair of Bexley’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee, of which Green Bexley is an initiative.