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Consider composting your holiday food waste

  • 12/29/2022 3:35:00 PM
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DES MOINES — It’s a New Year’s resolution you can use – no purchase necessary. 

If you find yourself with a bit more food waste than usual from holiday cooking and baking, composting can be an easy and sustainable way to discard scraps. The best part is, it can be done right in your kitchen or backyard. 

Composting helps reduce greenhouse gasses emitted by decomposing food in landfills, of which organics and food waste are a large part. 

According to the 2022 Statewide Materials Characterization Study, food is the most wasted material being landfilled by weight. Food waste accounts for about 19.2% of all material being landfilled – 14.2% of that being loose food and 4.6% packaged.

Kitchen composting usually involves just one non-organic component – a large, ideally recyclable, container with a lid. That container can be tucked anywhere, from on top of the kitchen counter to under the sink or in a garage. Tom Anderson with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Land Quality Bureau uses an old plastic gallon ice cream tub.

While you’re cooking a meal or baking, you can deposit egg shells, vegetable and fruit peelings and cuttings directly into the container. You can also compost plate scrapings, coffee grounds, filters and some tea bags. Be careful to keep bones and dairy out of the bin – those items could attract unwanted critters.

Producing organics like fruits and vegetables requires a significant amount of resources and energy, as well as time and money for transportation and labor. Composting can help make sure those efforts aren’t wasted.

“Composting sounds simple, but it has a huge impact,” Anderson said.

You can do a few things with your compost. If you have a yard, you can use a large plastic bin to collect compost, including yard waste, over the course of a few months and add decomposed organics to a garden. 

“Finished compost does wonders for the quality of your garden soil or lawn,” Anderson said.

Iowa has a few composting facilities and some communities may have food waste drop-off programs or offer curbside composting services. You can also find online whether your community or an organization offers a subscription service that will pick up your organics.

More information on backyard composting can be found on the DNR’s website at