Food waste: The biggest environmental problem you never heard about?

Jan 5, 2012 by Jimmy DiCarlo

Aloha Everyone,

Today I wanted to share some info about a serious environmental problem that can actually be solved.

Food waste is something not commonly thought of as an environmental hazard. We tend to throw it away, thinking that it actually goes away. Unfortunately, this ignorance to where our food goes when it leaves our plates not only harms our environment, but also robs the land of valuable resources it’s hungry for. Food waste and ways to turn it into a resource is something I've become super passionate about because I know there are real solutions that can be put in place by US.

The amount of food that is thrown away is staggering. I read a study done by the EPA done in 2009 on the waste we create in the U.S.A. I found out some pretty startling facts:
• Americans generate more than 34 million tons of food waste each year.
• Food waste is the 2nd largest component of our waste stream. Paper is #1.
• Less than 3% of food waste is recycled. Approximately 60% of paper is recycled.
• Food waste is now the single largest component of waste in our landfills.

You can read this EPA study here:

Land space is becoming more limited, especially here in HI. As our populations grow, so does our overflowing landfill. I think many of us agree that something must be done to reduce the size of the landfill. I believe it's a hot issue that drives many of our lifestyle changes here on Kanu. Being that food waste is the single largest component of waste in the landfill AND it can be recycled, I think it’s a good place to start.

Although food waste is bio-degradable, the landfill lacks the right conditions for proper and efficient decomposition. When placed in the landfill, food waste rots and emits significant amounts of toxic greenhouse gases such as methane and ammonia. The rainwater that runs through the rotting food waste also contributes to the pollution of our waters. Food waste in landfills creates a breeding ground for rodents and dangerous pathogens. Not to mention, IT STINKS!

Food waste can actually be a valuable resource when it is returned back to the land. As food waste breaks down on the land, it enriches the soil thus naturally fertilizing the plants. Approximately 40% of what goes into the landfill can technically be turned into soil, used to support local food production for local consumption.

Composting is a great way to divert and recycle food waste. One of the most efficient and practical ways I’ve found to compost food waste, specifically, is Bokashi fermentation. The Bokashi method involves using a blend of beneficial micro-organisms to anaerobically ferment organic waste. Through this process, all food waste including meat and dairy is turned into a nutrient-rich soil. The cool thing is that the process only takes about 6-weeks to complete and doesn’t pollute our land, air or water whatsoever!

You can easily use the Bokashi fermentation method right in your kitchen without any smell or problems with bugs, to recycle 100% of your food waste. It’s a great way for you, by yourself, to have a major impact.

I recently launched a project, called Throw To Grow, to educate individuals about the benefits of Bokashi and also raise funds for a food waste recycling project using Bokashi here in HI. Bokashi fermentation has yet to be implemented on a large scale. With this pilot project, I plan to demonstrate Bokashi fermentation on a large scale, with hopes of creating large systems that will turn abundant waste to abundant resource. With Throw To Grow, I'm hoping to change peoples' mindset so they no longer think of it as food waste but food resource. I want Hawaii to play a major role in revolutionizing the way waste is managed.

I'm reaching out the community to help get this project off the ground, and using the KICKSTARTER website to do the fundraising.

You can learn more and make a pledge here:

When you pledge, you earn some really cool rewards.

The principles of permaculture teach us that there should be no waste, and that when there is waste we aren’t doing something right. I believe that by addressing the issue of food waste, we can actually heal other large problems such as food supply and energy issues.

Till next time!

Jim DiCarlo
E1T1 Farms


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