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This kind of waste biodegrades, or breaks down into soil, and is a critical part of maintaining healthy land for living and growing. There are two kinds of organic waste: YARD WASTE & FOOD WASTE. 



Yard waste includes most types of outdoor, organic waste that can be found in yards and on properties. Common types of yard waste are grass, leaves, and tree and brush trimmings from residential, institutional and commercial sources. Yard waste makes up approximately 12 percent of material solid waste in the United States. 


Ways to minimize yard waste:

  • Compost

  • Mulching

  • Leave in yard to biodegrade (grass clippings and leaves)

  • Use to line gardens and flowerbeds to keep pests and weeds at bay


Where to compost/mulch yard waste:

Many municipalities or counties have yard waste collection or drop-off sites. Check locally with your city government or solid waste management district to find how to keep yard waste out of the trash in your area.
(find your district; find your local government site)


Other ways to minimize yard waste:

Some kinds of yard waste such as grass clippings have beneficial uses right in your own yard! Grass clippings break down quickly and are a valuable source of fertilizer for keeping lawns and gardens healthy. Grass clippings can also be placed in flower beds and vegetable gardens to keep pests and weeds at bay. Fall leaves provide valuable habitat for pollinators and other native animal species. See more tips on how to reduce yard waste from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).



Here’s some food for thought—Have you ever considered the role food waste plays in the circular economy? Or how organic materials can nourish the soil we use to grow crops? Or how about what we can actually do with excess food? Food waste is a big problem, but your friends at Circular Indiana are here to help you understand what you can do.


What is food waste?

Food waste is any food that is wasted or not eaten. There are many kinds of food waste, and every part of the food system creates food waste. Some common types of food waste include waste from farms, food production or processing waste, restaurant waste, waste at retail stores, and waste generated by individual households. 


Types of food waste:

  • Edible but less desirable food waste: often created during processing and preparation (broccoli stems, potato peels, seeds from tomatoes and peppers)

  • Wasted food: food that could have been eaten, but was not for some reason (spoiled milk, burned food, uneaten leftovers, moldy cheese)

  • By-products: Food waste created as a result of food production (whey from cheese production)


Why does food waste matter?

Each year, up to 40 percent of the food grown and produced in the United States is wasted. In fact, food waste makes up the biggest portion of waste in landfills - almost 25%!

  • Putting food waste in landfills or incinerating it:

    • Generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change

    • Removes critical nutrients from Indiana soils, making it more difficult to grow nutritious and tasty food

    • Does nothing to help feed hungry Hoosiers

    • Generates air and water pollution that disproportionately impacts vulnerable communities, such as communities of color or low-income families 


Where does food waste occur?

Food waste occurs throughout the entire food system, including during production, processing, distribution, retail and consumption. Global food loss and waste amount to between one-third and one-half of all food produced. Food waste is the largest category of waste in landfills, making up almost a quarter of what Americans throw away.


Ways to reduce food waste:

All types of food waste reduction are important, but some ways have more impact than others. When reducing food waste, start at the top and work down the chart above. The goal is always to reduce food waste and feed hungry people before composting food that is no longer edible. Still, all methods contribute to the goal of not throwing any food into the trash. 


  • SOURCE REDUCTION: There are different ways to reduce the waste generated when preparing food. (examples: using all parts of ingredients in food preparation, not making too much food, and using leftovers to create different kinds of food)

  • FEED HUNGRY PEOPLE: Donating edible food that would otherwise be thrown out at farms, grocery stores, restaurants, and even households to food banks and pantries.

  • FEED ANIMALS: Using undesirable food as animal feed (examples: giving Halloween pumpkins to goats, using corn husks as cow feed)

  • INDUSTRIAL USES: Using food waste in innovative ways to generate power or perform a task (example: using leftover cooking oil to run vehicles)

  • COMPOSTING: Using the natural process of decomposition to turn food waste and other organic materials into soil. Composting makes fantastic fertilizer for farms and gardens!

  • ANAEROBIC DIGESTION: A process where bacteria break down organic matter—such as animal and food waste—without oxygen. The process takes place in a sealed vessel called a reactor that contains microbes which “digest” waste. Anaerobic digestion generates biogas, which can be burned to generate heat and/or electricity or to create natural gas, and digestate, which includes solid and liquid products that can be used to fertilize crops. 



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