What is Food Waste?

What is “food waste”?

Food waste can be defined as any food substance, raw or cooked, which is discarded. An enormous amount of food is wasted in our country every day. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that discarded food is the biggest single component in US landfill and incinerators, where garbage is burned. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that up to half the food in America is wasted.

Recycling rubbish or garbage bin with vegetable scraps inside to turn to composte.

Defining “organics”

California’s new Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling law requires businesses and organizations, including schools, to recycle “organic waste,” which includes wasted food, yard clippings and food-soiled paper. [1] The collected “organic waste” will then be turned into compost, a nutrient rich soil that can be used in gardens.


How will our school’s food waste be recycled?

One key location for food waste recycling is the cafeteria kitchen, including food that is discarded during lunch and snack preparation, such as the tops of carrots, peels, etc. Getting this type of food waste into the recycling bin is the responsibility of kitchen staff.

Waste Management's food waste carts

Waste Management’s food waste carts

So what will students be doing to help recycle food waste? You will need to make a conscious effort to separate recyclable from non-recyclable lunch trash, as well as organic and non-organic waste. Didn’t eat half of your burger? Toss the burger into the green and yellow bin marked “COMPOST” and any wrapping paper into the trash. Plastic containers can go into bottle and can recycling while brown food containers must, for the time being, go into the trash. Didn’t feel like eating your packet of carrots? If your school does not yet have a food recovery program in place, take the carrots out of the plastic wrapper, toss the carrots into the green and yellow “COMPOST” bin and the plastic wrapper into the trash.

Feeling confused? Don’t worry, City of Thousand Oaks staff will provide explanatory signs with pictures of what goes in each bin and will be on hand to provide training and support as the program rolls out. Soon enough food recycling will become as natural to you as recycling bottles and cans!

[1] Food soiled paper is collected in organics recycling carts where facilities exist to convert it into compost. It should be noted that such facilities do not yet exist in Ventura County. Therefore, for the time being, food soiled paper, such as greasy pizza boxes and dirty paper napkins, must still be thrown into the trash.