The dilemma is what to do with food waste. Millions of tons of – basically garbage – where should it go? Landfills? Animal Foods?
Walmart recently announced that they have eliminated more than 80 percent of the waste that would go to landfills from it’s stores (including Sam’s Clubs) across California. “Achieving a similar 80 percent reduction in its landfill waste across the country would help Walmart prevent more than 11.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This is equal to taking more than 2 million cars off the road for a year.”
So how did Walmart achieve this? It’s called Walmart zero waste program.
The Walmart press release states the zero waste program has three main components…
• Recycling cardboard, paper, aluminum, plastic bags and roughly 30 other items through the super sandwich bale (SSB) program. Items not eligible for the SSB, including wood pallets, polystyrene plastic and apparel, are sent to Walmart’s return centers for reuse or recycling.
• Donating healthy, nutritious food to food banks around the country. In 2010, Walmart donated 256 million pounds of food to hunger relief organizations – the equivalent of 197 million meals.
• Creating animal feed, energy or compost from expired food and other organic products following the EPA’s food waste hierarchy.
Of significant concern to any human or animal that eats, is the creation of animal feed from expired food.
The EPA Food Waste program states “Recovering food discards as animal feed is not new. In many areas hog farmers have traditionally relied on food discards to sustain their livestock. Farmers may provide storage containers and free or low-cost pick-up service. There are also companies that convert food discards into commercial animal feed and pet food. Feeding waste food to livestock or having the food processed into animal feed is a viable option for recycling food scraps and provides economic and environmental benefits for all involved.”
The “companies that convert food discards into commercial animal feed and pet food” are renderers. From a 2004 Report to Congress “Renderers convert dead animals and animal byproducts into ingredients for a wide range of industrial and consumer goods, such as animal feed,…” http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/crs/RS21771.pdf
Renderers also convert waste/expired food from retail outlets such as Walmart into animal feed. At the January AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) mid-year meeting, conversation took place at the request of the rendering industry to provide a animal feed/pet food name for grocery store waste (example provided at the meeting was expired Hot Pockets from Walmart).
As consumers/petsumers continue to have increased awareness of what we eat, the quality of the food we and our pets consume is significantly important. Part of the dilemma…how in the world can rendered 4D (dead, dying, diseased, and disabled) animals and/or rendered grocery waste such as expired Hot Pockets (including the packaging) provide ANY nutritional benefit to ANY animal? If this waste has to be cooked to the extent to destroy bacterial contamination, how could any quality nutrition remain (not that 4D animals or expired Hot Pockets had any nutrition value to begin with)?
Part two of the dilemma is what else can be done with this waste?
I am of the belief that this entire dump the garbage into animal feed/pet food originated decades (possibly centuries) ago. Not that I’m that old…but when I was a child my grandparents lived in the country. They didn’t farm, but neighbors did and I accompanied them on many visits to the neighbors farms. The farm hogs were fed table scraps from the family table. (And off topic, this same family took in as a pet each spring a baby pig – into the house! It slept on the couch! Great fun for me as a child to visit and play with the baby pig.) In the fall, the remains of the garden plants were fed to livestock as well. Leftovers from ordinary life were normally provided to the animals; which included dogs and cats too (table scraps). My belief is that big industry began their ‘recycling’ innocently enough, just following what was already being done on farms and homes across the country…feeding leftovers to the animals.
However moving leftovers into a huge commercial level is not the same thing as I witnessed as a kid. But if this waste is not converted into animal feed/pet food (don’t misinterpret me – I still think this waste has NO place in animal feed/pet food), should it all go into landfills?
Landfills produce methane gas, known as “an important climate gas contributing significantly to global warming.” Landfills “are the second-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States“.
But…”Instead of escaping into the air, LFG (land fill gas) can be captured, converted, and used as an energy source. Using LFG helps to reduce odors and other hazards associated with LFG emissions, and it helps prevent methane from migrating into the atmosphere and contributing to local smog and global climate change.
LFG is extracted from landfills using a series of wells and a blower/flare (or vacuum) system. This system directs the collected gas to a central point where it can be processed and treated depending upon the ultimate use for the gas. From this point, the gas can be flared, used to generate electricity, replace fossil fuels in industrial and manufacturing operations, or upgraded to pipeline–quality gas where the gas may be used directly or processed into an alternative vehicle fuel.” http://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-info/index.html#a03
(To learn more about landfill gas projects, visit http://www.epa.gov/lmop/projects-candidates/index.html#map-area)
Currently, the number of landfills that generate landfill gas into usable energy are few (in comparison to those that don’t). As example, from the EPA website, the state of Florida has 68 landfills that would be a candidate for a landfill gas project and only 16 that are operational (utilizing LFG). The EPA website also states “Projects involve public and private organizations, small and large landfills, and various types of technology.” I noticed no mention of government support mentioned on the EPA website (not that there isn’t any – just no mention) for LFG energy projects; only public and private organizations.
So, my question to all of you is this…Where should waste…garbage…from the processing of human food go? Should it continue to be allowed to be reprocessed into animal feed/pet food despite a clear compromise of feed/food quality (nutritional value)? Or should the waste/garbage be placed in landfills risking further methane gas emission? If your thoughts are landfill, how can we fast forward the processing of LFG energy?
These are difficult questions with no easy/simple answers. However, they are questions that need to be addressed by those in authority. It is my belief that the quality of health of humans and animals (including our pets) are at risk if the recycling of garbage into feed/foods continues. Imagine the nutritional differences of an animal feed made from recycled garbage to an animal feed made from non-waste feed (basically organic these days). How comfortable do you feel eating a steak or chicken sandwich knowing the meat producing animal was fed waste? Or feeding your pet meat from an animal fed waste? Not everyone can afford all organic (myself included). But will the long term health effects from not eating all organic cost us all more in the long run?
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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