HOW TO REDUCE, REUSE, AND RECYCLE FRUIT WASTE
In our 'how to create a perfect fruit spread at the comforts of your home' series, we've discussed how to sterilize jars for home canning, followed by the next step on how to select the best quality fruits and vegetables, and now just before we get cooking, we wanna touch on a topic which we find very important for mother nature - how to reduce, reuse, and recycle food (including fruit) waste.
Millions of tonnes of fruit each year that are exported, consumed locally, or processed into value-added products such as juice, canned fruit or wine.
During the processing of fruit, thousands of tonnes of solid and liquid waste are produced. Solid waste is generated in the form of skins, pips and stalks, and liquid waste from water used to wash fruit or clean equipment. But research shows that this waste is not being put to use.
This has two major negative consequences. The first is environmental. Solid waste disposed to landfill adds to the burden already placed on these sites. Liquid waste disposal adds excessive nutrients to aquatic environments. This leads to nutrient imbalance, overgrowth of algae, loss of oxygen and the death of animals (crustaceans, amphibians, and fish). Secondly, theoretically, there is an economic loss because the untapped potential of the fruit waste is not being exploited to its full potential.
But what about us as consumers? How are we impacting the food waste scene?
Did you know that fresh foods make up most of the discarded food, with the average American wasting almost 20 percent of the vegetables and 15 percent of the fruits inside and outside of their homes?
While there are many areas of food waste that are out of consumers' control, which includes loss in production, processing, and at fresh or supermarkets, we can however be conscientious and play our part by taking proper care of vegetables and fruits from purchase to plate. By doing so, we can save money, have a greater ability to feed the hungry, and play a positive role in the reduction of food waste, which means a reduction in landfill use and the corresponding methane emissions.
Three Steps to Reduce Waste
Buy just what you need. Beware of bulk discounts, since fresh produce has a limited shelf life.
Embrace produce imperfections, but steer clear of vegetables or fruits that are overly bruised or damaged.
Store any perishable fresh produce, such as berries and leafy greens, in a clean refrigerator set to 40°F or below. If produce is refrigerated at a grocery store, it generally should be refrigerated at home to maintain quality.
Some fruits produce a large amount of ethylene gas during ripening, which can ripen other produce when stored together. Produce that release this gas include avocados, unripe bananas, nectarines, peaches, tomatoes, apples, apricots, cantaloupe, figs, kiwis and plums. In the refrigerator, store these fruits in a no-vegetables-allowed crisper drawer and away from fruit that doesn't need to be quickly ripened. Some vegetables also can leave distinctive odours that fruits absorb, affecting overall quality.
Some produce has a short lifespan once ripened. Plan to use fruits such as apricots, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries and vegetables such as herbs, sprouts, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, leafy greens, lima beans, mushrooms, peas and summer squash within a couple days of purchase.
Fresh produce with a longer shelf-life can wait to be consumed until after most of the other fruits and vegetables. This includes apples, pears, beets, carrots, garlic, onions, potatoes and winter squash. Eating foods with a short shelf life first, can be helpful in reducing food waste.
Consider using bags or storage containers designed for produce to help prevent spoilage of other foods. However, don't store fresh produce in regular, air-tight plastic storage bags or containers as this can start the decaying process and promotes bacterial and mold growth.
Rinse or scrub and use the entire fruit or vegetable when possible, including all edible skins and seeds. Just cut away any bruises and blemishes.
Have a plan, then prepare only what you need. Make half portions or develop a plan for using leftovers to help reduce excess food that might go to waste.
If you're unable to enjoy all of the fresh produce you have on hand, make your own frozen food. Cut fruit and blanch vegetables before placing in air-tight containers for freezing. Blanching vegetables before freezing helps to slow down the spoiling process and preserve the colour and texture of these foods.
Be playful when produce is at the end of its edible life. Puree fruits into smoothies or vegetables into a hummus. Mash fruit to create fresh jam or pancake topping. Finely dice fruit to make a salsa. Sauté cut up veggies and toss with pasta or sprinkle atop cheese pizza. Roast vegetables and stuff into a burrito or sandwich wrap.
Reuse Waste By Composting
Composting can help put food scraps to use and reduce methane emissions in landfills. Fruits, vegetables, coffee and tea all are good materials for compost. By taking care of produce from purchase to plate, you can make a noticeable difference in the amount of food wasted in your home.
WHAT HOME FOOD WASTE CAN YOU COMPOST?
Not all food waste is created equal. You should know this or else you may have problems popping up in your compost bin or pile. BIG PROBLEMS! Actually, once you look at the chart below, common sense will be your guide.
Recyclable Valuable Fruit Waste
Over the last two decades there have been signs of progress and the terms beneficiation and bio-refinery have become popular in many countries around the world such as in the USA, Germany, and South Africa. Beneficiation refers to the conversion of waste to more valuable products. This can be achieved at fruit processing sites or at a bio-refinery.
Research initially focused on using fruit waste for the production of bio-energy, however further international studies have shown that there is huge potential trapped in fruit waste. This includes accessing dietary nutrients and antioxidants from selected fruit types.
The myriad of ways in which waste from the fruit sector can be reused and recycled include:
As a source of flavour or aroma compounds, antioxidants, natural colourants and dietary nutrients.
Depending on the type of fruit, as a source of starch, pectin and cellulose that can be used in baking or for the generation of bio-ethanol.
As a source of fibre and pulp for the production of composite materials, textiles and paper.
For the removal of heavy metals and dyes from wastewater.
For processing into bricks used in boilers or domestic fireplaces.
As a growth substrate for the cultivation of fungi and bacteria. These organisms can produce value-added products during growth such as enzymes used in the production of biofuel or fine chemicals.
As a source of organic acids typically used in food, natural biocontrol agents such as natural pesticides, and bioplastics for the manufacture of bio-degradable containers.
Biomass can also be used for growing edible mushrooms, micro-algal growth for biofuel production and fungal/bacterial biomass for composting or biofuel.
It All Starts With Us
As the wise Dalai Lama once said,
"It is our collective and individual responsibility... to preserve and tend to the world in which we all live."
Don't ever believe that you can't make a difference. You definitely can. When you and I, each of us do our little part to contribute to caring for the environment, we will create a large impact to create a sustainable planet together as one.
With these handy tips in hand on how to play your part and join us in our endeavour to save our Earth, we're certain that positive change and a brighter future is just around the corner in the foreseeable near future for us all.
Now we'd love to hear from you. What is your way of helping mother nature? Do you actively reduce, reuse, or recycle? Do share with us in the comments below, we'd love to learn from you.
We hope this article helps, and we're so glad you're here. Thank you so much for reading 💚Do let us know if there's any other useful tips we might have missed out.
Enjoy your day!
Trish & Björn
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