Grace Smith | September 30, 2022
Iowans send over 190,000 tons of untouched food to landfills a year—enough to fill dump trucks spanning from Cedar Rapids to Waterloo. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources released a statement breaking down landfills in Iowa and found that 20 percent of all landfilled materials are from food waste. As of 2021, food waste produces 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases per year.
“Food waste continues to be the single largest landfilled item by weight,” says Tom Anderson with the DNR’s solid waste section. “It continues to grow. It is sad in some ways. Food gets thrown away every day.”
Most of the 20 percent of wasted food is processed, stored, and prepared leftovers. The DNR release said almost seven percent of the wasted food is still in its original packaging – in cans, boxes, and bags. Anderson said most food is wasted because of misinterpreted labels and expiration/ “best by” dates.
The second and third largest items that end up in landfills include plastics at 8.6 percent and compostable paper at 7.6 percent. The release said that the energy and emissions impact from 854,000 tons of improperly disposed of paper, containers, and compostable materials is tremendous. If these materials were correctly recycled or composted, about 1.4 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions could be decreased.
The DNR offers a list of ways to combat the growing presence of food waste in landfills:
- Buy only what you need.
- Learn how to preserve food.
- Compost leftover food.