Food Waste Contributes to Greenhouse Gas Emissions More Than You Would Think!

Have you ever thrown away food? The answer to that question is most likely a yes, as 95% of food scraps are sent to the landfills each year in the US alone [1]. This food waste emits about the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 7 coal-fired power plants [2]!

What is a greenhouse gas and what does it do? Greenhouse gas emissions contribute to the increasing temperature of the planet. There are several natural emissions of greenhouse gasses, but according to NASA, human based activities “have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years [3].” In fact, human activities cause the release of 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year causing the current carbon dioxide level to be the highest it has been in the last 800,000 years [4]. Once these greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor) are released into the atmosphere, they trap heat from leaving the atmosphere, therefore warming the planet.

How, do you ask, does food waste produce that much greenhouse gas emissions? Well, the millions of tons of food waste that goes to the landfill is buried underground and the decomposition of the food creates methane. Most people have heard of the effects of carbon dioxide, but methane has a 34 times greater global warming potential than that of carbon dioxide [5]. Yes, carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and methane can only stay in the atmosphere for around twenty years. Due to its shorter lifespan, over a 20 year period one methane molecule has the global warming potential as 86 molecules of carbon dioxide [4] .

Don’t be discouraged though because Global Green’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) food scrap collection program is helping to reduce this food waste!

The food scrap program is being implemented in multi-family dwellings to not only reduce the waste that is going to the landfills, but also allowing people to reuse these valuable resources for other activities like using compost as a natural fertilizer.

So next time you think of throwing away your food into the trash can, think again.




For more information on climate change check out:

Global Green report on why methane matters: http://thecorr.org/Methane%20Matters.pdf

NASA website: http://climate.nasa.gov/causes/

EPA website: https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html