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Keyword: solid waste management

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Communications Specialist, Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management

Americans are biting off more than we can chew.

Picture it: you bring groceries home from the store and prepare a family favorite for dinner – spaghetti and meatballs with salad and garlic bread. After eating, you all pitch in to clear the table, placing food scraps and maybe even some leftovers down the garbage disposal or in the trash. With everything put away and the counters and table shining clean, dinner is over, and you and your family settle in to watch an episode or two of your favorite show on Netflix. It’s a familiar scene, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Not even close.

So, what is the whole story? The story of our food is a complicated one involving a long, meandering journey from “farm to fork to landfill." In 2017, the Bureau of Solid Waste Management plans to explore this journey in a series of articles about food waste, food waste prevention and food recovery to help readers better understand the impact our daily food choices have on our families, our communities and our planet. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food makes up the largest percentage of waste that is buried in landfills or burned in incinerators, and more than 30 million tons of food are sent to landfills each year. In fact, 30 to 40 percent of the food produced annually in the U.S. is thrown away, which is more than 20 pounds per person, per month.

Think about it – what kinds of foods made up your 20 pounds last month? What foods are you actually eating, and what are you throwing away? How much are you throwing away, and how much did it cost? To reduce the amount of food we waste, we must first understand what we are wasting, why we’re wasting it, and how that waste affects us. 

From farms to cafes to our kitchens, food waste happens in a variety of ways, such as: 

  • People prepare too much food for meals and throw out the leftovers;
  • Food that was overcooked or badly prepared is thrown away;
  • Diners over order at restaurants, or the portions are too large, and the leftovers are disposed of;
  •  “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are left to rot on farm fields or disposed of at grocery stores;
  • Food goes “bad” before we’ve had a chance to eat it, or is disposed of due to confusing food date labeling.

Why does this matter? Food waste is costly. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, food waste costs Americans $165 billion each year. That works out to approximately $529 per person. Food waste also harms the environment. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports that food waste, if ranked among countries, would place third in total greenhouse gas emissions, after China and the United States. Lastly, food waste is a social problem. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that nearly 13 percent of U.S. households, or 42 million people, were food insecure in 2015. 

Given the financial, environmental and social impacts of food waste, we all have a role to play in reducing the amount of food we throw away. Here are 10 tips to help you prevent food waste at home:

  1. Plan your meals in advance and shop smart.
  2. Don’t over-serve at home, serve food on smaller plates, and eat your leftovers!
  3. Store food in the right places (pantry, refrigerator) and containers (freezer bags, airtight containers).
  4. Avoid kitchen clutter and keep food neat and visible; keep foods “first-in, first-out.”
  5. Regularly take inventory and note approaching expiration dates; plan meals using those items.
  6. Treat “sell by,” “best by,” and “use by” dates as guidelines only. The FDA actually permits stores to sell food past the “expiration date.” Remember, food date labels serve the retailer, not the consumer.
  7. Use soft produce in smoothies, soups and juices.
  8. Keep a food waste diary of the kinds of food you throw away, and why.
  9. As they say, beauty is only skin deep, so go ahead and buy that “ugly” produce. 
  10. Use it up – cook with food scraps, such as meat trimmings and produce skins, peels, stems, and stalks. 

It’s also important to talk to your family members about what they can do to prevent food waste at home, school and work. 

In the next installment of our series about food waste, we will provide an overview of Maryland’s very first Food Recovery Summit, which brought together representatives from nonprofit organizations, local schools, environmental groups, the retail food industry, and local, state and federal governments to share ideas and best practices for reducing food waste in our state. 

This article originally appeared in the Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management’s REsource Newsletter. To subscribe, visit our website


Show highlights police body cameras, public works, and Holidays at Hampton

The latest edition of Baltimore County’s half-hour cable television public affairs show, “Hello Baltimore County,” focuses on the Police Department's body cameras program, Department of Public Works operations and holiday events at the Hampton National Historic Site in Towson.

Body Cameras – Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger offers his perspective as the County’s head prosecutor.

ICYMI – In case you missed it, we review some recent headlines from your County government.

In the Trenches Every Day – Public Works Director Steve Walsh shares some surprising stats on the work DPW does to keep our daily lives on track.

Holidays at Hampton – Find out what the Hampton National Historic Site has in store to ring in the Yuletide season.

To view streaming video of the show, go to the Hello Baltimore County page at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Videos/hellobaltimorecounty.html . Click on the menu icon in the upper left of the video screen to select an individual segment.

In addition to online access, the program runs several times per week on Cable Channel 25, in Baltimore County, at the following times:

Mondays: 1:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 10 p.m.

Tuesdays: 12 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m.

Wednesdays: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 10 p.m.

Thursdays: 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 8 p.m.

Fridays: 11 a.m., 6 p.m.

Saturdays: 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.

Sundays: 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.


Trees Must be at Curb No Later than Saturday, January 16

The collection of live Christmas trees for recycling in Baltimore County will take place over a two-week period, beginning Monday, January 11.

To ensure collection of Christmas trees, residents must have the trees out at the curb no later than Saturday, January 16.

Residents must follow these simple rules when placing their Christmas trees at the curb to be recycled:

  • Only set out live (not artificial) trees.
  • Set out the tree only (no lights, decorations, tinsel, bags, tree stands, etc.).
  • Only set out trees at the front curb or street; trees will not be collected from alleys.

Baltimore County collectors will pick up Christmas trees in standard trash and recycling trucks, and deliver them to County facilities to be chipped and later used as mulch. Baltimore County residents who live in an apartment or condominium should follow their property manager’s rules when recycling their Christmas trees.

Residents who wish to drop off Christmas trees themselves may do so starting Saturday, December 26, 2015. Christmas trees (no lights, decorations, tinsel, bags, tree stands, etc.) may be taken to any one of the County’s three drop-off locations.

For directions to the County’s drop-off centers, residents may visit the Bureau of Solid Waste Management website or call 410-887-2000.


 
 
Revised September 26, 2016