Food waste is a problem because it costs Americans billions of dollars in lost revenue, puts a tax on natural and human resources, and harms the environment by contributing to global warming and climate change when food waste is added to landfills and produces the greenhouse gas methane.
In the US, we throw away about 108 billion pounds of food each year. It is estimated that 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. is wasted resulting in a food loss value of $408 billion a year with an additional $218 billion in food waste costs due to food production.
On Oahu alone, the average person throws away 350 pounds of food waste each year. Food thrown into the trash ends up in one of two places on Oahu, either in our landfill or incinerated. Food waste dumped in our landfills emits methane gas as it rots, which is 28 times more potent than CO2. Incinerating food waste pollutes the air and is the least effiecient way to create energy.
Where do Banán's banana peels end up?
Rather than simply throw away our banana peels and food scraps, Banán closes the loop by giving all of our food waste to local farms and schools to used a animal feed or turned into compost/vericaste. Our peels from our production kitchen are picked up by Mountain View Farms, located on the westside, to feed their pigs.
Upon opening our Kailua location in 2019, Full Circle Farms in Waimanalo started collecting our peels and food scraps to use as nutrients on their farm to grow food.
The Compost Machine
Our friends over at Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii partnered up with Full Circle Farms to create a solution to the problem of food waste ending up in Hawaii's landfills. They bought a composting machine and brought it to Oahu, to make composting clean and easy, turning food scraps into a resource for the community.
How does it work? The food scraps will be collected from restaurants, events, local businesses and kitchens and fed to the machine. Other ingredients such as, green waste, brown waste and water will be added. Air will be ventalated through the bottom of the machine and microbes will work their magic. Three to six weeks later, the compost will be complete. Full Circle Farms plans to distribute compost to other farms and community gardens.
What makes this composting machine so special? Well for starters, it runs completely on solar energy, so from sun to soil, there is zero emissions. Secondly, it's a closed system, and completely self contained, so it doesn't stink and keeps pests away. Third, it can compost things that cannot be composted at home, such as alternative plastics, meat, bones and dairy. Lastly, this machine can process up to 1000 pounds a day of food waste, diverting all that waste from our landfills.
Putting food scraps to work
Why is this all so important? Compost supports a soil food web of bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter and turn it into nutrients that can be taken up by plants. Compost stimulates plant growth, and as plants grown they retain carbon in the ground, creating a virtuous cycle to help mitigate climate change. Because compost adds nutrients to the soil, it reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and helps the soil retain water, making plants more drought resistant.
Sustainable Coastline's dream is to add a composting machine to every community around the island, where residents can bring their food scraps to be turned into a nutrient rich compost. This project is a piece of the puzzle for mitigating climate change, inviting people to explore their relationship with the natural world, and understanding that healthy soils create healthy living for ourselves and our planet.