Sustainable Solutions. Recycling Food in Farming and at Home
Food recycling is a critical step towards sustainable agriculture and responsible consumption. In a world where food waste and environmental degradation are major concerns, food recycling can significantly reduce our ecological footprint.
This article explores how food can be recycled in farming and at anyone’s home, offering practical tips for a more sustainable way of living.
According to the WWF’s 2021 report Driven To Waste, about 10 per cent of all GHG emissions come from food waste. The same report reveals that ‘2.5 billion tonnes of food go uneaten around the world each year,’ equal to 40 per cent of all the food grown. The report is the first one to quantify total on-farm food loss since 2011.
These staggering figures are regularly confirmed during our business activities. While leading the Cool Mangoes project in Côte d’Ivoire, our team heard cooperative leaders and farmers state that harvest losses in this country amount to 40%. Similar issues were raised when, in 2020-21, our parent company collaborated with Nigerian partners on cassava crops, even more perishable due to their limited post-harvest life (48-72 hours).
The quantity of food that goes wasted is even more shocking if we think about the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include Zero Hunger and Responsible Consumption and Production. How can so much food be lost when there are so many people in need of it? And how can we avoid making, or at least reduce, that waste?
Let us explore how food can be recycled in farming and at home.
Food Recycling in Farming
Composting is a widely adopted method in farming to recycle food scraps and organic matter. Farmers collect kitchen scraps, crop residues, and animal manure and allow them to decompose into nutrient-rich compost. This compost enriches the soil, enhancing its fertility and structure, leading to healthier crops.
2. Animal Feeding
Food waste, such as fruit and vegetable trimmings, can be fed to livestock, reducing the need for expensive commercial feed. Farmers, of course, must ensure the food scraps are safe and suitable for the animals.
3. Crop Rotation
Crop rotation is a sustainable farming practice that helps recycle the soil. By alternating between crops with different nutrient needs, farmers can naturally replenish the fertility of the land without excessive fertilizer use.
4. Cover Crops
Planting cover crops − like legumes and grasses − between main crop seasons can help recycle nutrients and reduce soil erosion. When these cover crops are ploughed back into the soil, they add organic matter and nutrients.
Food Recycling at Home
Just like in farming, composting is a valuable way to recycle food waste at home. Set up a compost bin in your backyard or use indoor composting methods for apartment living. Composting not only reduces waste but also yields nutrient-rich soil for your garden.
Plan your grocery list carefully, and store food properly to minimise waste. Be mindful of expiry dates, and use a “first in, first out” approach to ensure older items are used before newer ones.
If you find yourself with excess food that you cannot use, consider donating it to local food banks or charities. Many organisations accept non-perishable and perishable items to help those in need.
4. Creative Cooking
You can also be creative and use various bits of leftover food for new recipes:
· Repurpose leftovers and turn last night’s roasted vegetables into a frittata, blend overripe fruits into smoothies, or use stale bread for homemade croutons or breadcrumbs.
· You can use vegetables peels, onion skins, and other kitchen scraps to make a homemade vegetable broth. Freeze these scraps until you have enough to create a flavourful base for soups and stews.
· Preserving methods like canning, pickling, and fermenting can extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Here is another way to reduce food waste while offering delicious, artisan alternatives to ready-made products.
· Use food scraps for gardening − coffee grounds, eggshells, and fruit peels can all be suitable. Coffee grounds are an excellent soil conditioner, while crushed eggshells deter pests, and fruit peels can be composted.
Recycling food in farming activities and home cooking means taking proactive step towards reducing food waste, preserving resources, and promoting sustainability.
You may also share your recycling tips on social media, to spread the word about sustainable practices. Showing your life hacks to contribute to sustainability may encourage others to do the same!