Food waste filling up US landfills, creating most harmful greenhouse gas, EPA data shows

People can reduce one-third of food waste by composting, says ReFED.

ByGinger Zee KFSN logo
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Food waste filling up US landfills, creating most harmful greenhouse gas, EPA data shows
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People can reduce at least a third of food waste by composting their table scraps instead of throwing them in the garbage, according to ReFED.

Americans make 294 million tons of trash every year. About half of that goes straight to landfills.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the most common material sent to landfills is food. It causes a huge problem because when food gets trapped between layers of plastics and other trash, it releases one of the most harmful greenhouse gases -- methane.

"Studies have shown that the climate footprint of food waste is larger than the entire aviation industry," said food waste expert Dana Gunders, the director of the national non-profit ReFED.

But people can reduce at least one-third of food waste by composting their table scraps instead of throwing them in the garbage, Gunders said.

The waste still releases some carbon dioxide when it breaks down, but it is far less harmful than the methane it would produce in a landfill.

Plastic is another waste concern. Less than 10% of plastic gets recycled properly. Plastics in the environment break down into microplastics that then end up in oceans and the fish humans eat.

Tips for reducing plastic waste in your home

  • Search your kitchen and bathroom for wasteful plastic.
  • Make sure to purchase dishwasher pods without the plastic casing.
  • Instead of a throwaway sponge, opt for a silicone sponge that can be washed in the dishwasher.
  • In the shower, swap out plastic containers for bar shampoo, conditioner, face soap and body soap.