Recycling our most important and wasted commodityHoly cats, the holiday season is upon us. Between ringing bells for the Salvation Army and tending the fires at Bentleyville, I was reminded this article was coming due.
By: By Steve Christen /“The Recycling Guy”, Superior Telegram
Holy cats, the holiday season is upon us. Between ringing bells for the Salvation Army and tending the fires at Bentleyville, I was reminded this article was coming due. So I locked myself down in my office until this was completed. I’m determined not to let the hectic schedule of the season get in the way of penning a few lines about recycling.
Synonymous with the holidays is feasting. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the turkey population in America diminishes, and waistlines of many of us expand. When you look at the elaborate dinners our families partake in, one has to wonder how much food, we as Americans, waste.
I’m not talking just leftovers, but as a whole how much edible food is wasted, or gets recycled in some capacity that we may not be aware of.
The “Natural Resource Defense Council” says as much as 40 percent of our food supply is never eaten, and is therefore wasted. This costs the average family of four, about $2,000 a year. A different perspective might be buying three bags of groceries and dropping one in the parking lot on way to your car and not stopping to pick it up. But still that percentage seems to be a lot; certainly most of us would be conscious of that amount of wasted food. So, let’s look a little deeper.
A certain portion of our crops never get out of the field. At times, they may be plowed under because they did not ripen correctly or possibly even have grown too large. (Potatoes that are deemed too big for restaurant or domestic use routinely get plowed under).
There is also a certain amount of waste because of the way the food is transported. If you have any doubt simply go to Winter Street up by Midwest Energy and look at the deer feeding between the railroad tracks. Evidently, when these rail cars stop and start again the “jolt” shakes out some of product that car is carrying. Now that it is harvested and transported, we can spot waste as it is processed. I can remember when I was a driver (back in the good old days) hauling a 20-yard roll off box of bread dough from the bakery at Super Value in Hopkins. I would dump the box one day a week, and during the hot summer weeks, the dough would actually begin to rise and it would appear I was hauling a 20-yard loaf of bread.
Once at the grocery store, it is again inspected and prepped for our purchase. I recently had an opportunity to talk with Dale Olson from Super One, here in Superior. Dale is a long time grocery man who has a keen eye for inventory and wasted product. When asked about Super One’s commitment to sustainability, he was quick to point out a number of recycling programs that this grocery chain has established. He estimates that from the store by the Belknap Bridge they recycle over 250 tons of cardboard a year. They bale and prep the cardboard on site which makes it more marketable than simply having it hauled away loose. They have gotten proficient enough in getting a clean plastic recycling program going. The plastic wrap is also bailed on site, and they have a joint venture with Western Lake Superior Sanitary District to accept plastic shopping bags. Probably the most significant effort they have made is to the Second Harvest Food Bank. Management, has made a commitment to see that any edible product not be trashed or sent to a landfill. We should all be thankful this locally owned business has taken it upon themselves to see that what may be wasted from other chain grocers is made available to local residents.
Once it’s out of the grocery stores and into our homes, you’d think the waste would diminish. After all, now that we have paid for it, surely it would be consumed.
However thinking back to my bachelor days, I can still remember opening the refrigerator door and back behind the beer, was something that had morphed into some kind of weird science experiment. Not only was it moldy, but the mold had taken the colors of the rainbow. I decided that not only should I throw out this “thing,” but I should probably throw out whatever else was left in the fridge.
Luckily other than bottled beer, (perfectly good mind you) there was nothing else in the fridge.
Little did I know at the time but I had begun composting. Locally you can see composting on commercial scale down on Orchard Street in Duluth at the WLSSD organics site. You will see long rows of what appears to be dirt, but is actually composted garbage from various commercial and restaurants here in the Twin Ports.
My call to action this month is to minimize your in-home food waste and what you do end up scrapping off the holiday plate, look into the possibility of composting it for use next spring in the garden.
Until next month, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you.