The impact of food waste to landfill

As much as we love food, we tend to throw a lot away. However, have you ever thought about the impact food waste has on the environment?

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that almost 1/3 of food produced globally never gets eaten. In the UK alone, nearly 20 million tonnes of food are being wasted every year. This waste has an estimated value of over $19 billion associated with more than 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, as reported by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Its large emissions footprint not only comes from all the energy needed to ship, but also, to process and produce the food that ultimately ends up in the bin. Greenhouse gas has been estimated to be responsible for approximately 8% of global emissions due to the output as a product of the decomposition process. When food decomposes, it produces methane (CH4), which is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2), (see our previous post on this topic).

As it travels from farms to households, food is wasted before the point of sale. During the production process, farmers select the best-looking products. The unchosen produce is often left on the ground by harvesters or even makes its way to landfills, adding to the piles of food that decompose and generate harmful emissions.

To be well-stocked, supermarkets often overbuy food that inevitably goes to waste as it sits for a long time on their shelves. Therefore, this requires farmers to produce an excess of food, which in turn leads to more waste. Following from production and selling processes, the plague of food wasting continues in households and restaurants, with foodservice accounting for 69% of annual UK food waste.

Understanding how landfill sites operate is the first step toward resolving waste disposal issues. Given that all landfills create methane, one of the best ways to achieve a near term positive impact on the environment is to use this greenhouse gas to produce electricity. A combined range of gas analysis solutions are required to provide accurate and reliable data during this production process.

Firstly, many landfill sites harness gas by installing pipes to direct it from the boreholes to a central location, where it can generate electricity and heat via a CHP engine. Gas Data’s GFM 226 portable instrument can be connected to the wellhead of the pipes to analyse the gas content, measure flow and also differential pressure.

Secondly, landfill sites are often repurposed, despite decomposition processes being still active for many years after their decommissioning. As methane gas continues to be generated in the landfill, it carries significant safety and environmental concerns. To ensure the land is safe, surveyors use Gas Data’s GFM 436 instruments measure gas concentrations coming out of test boreholes. Once they determine these are low enough, developers know it is safe to build over a landfill site. Gas monitoring is required for several years following to ensure the safety of those working on the development and the population thereafter. Landfill sites require the adoption of advanced instruments as an essential part of their daily operations.

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