Let’s Break It Down (Literally): Quick Stats on Food Waste & 4 Earth-Conscious Reasons Why We Should Start Composting (2/2/2023)

Dec 19, 2023 Annie Cao

Food is the single largest component in US landfills, making up 22 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW). Consequently, this has had a negative impact on the planet. Learning about food waste and how to start composting are good steps we can take to actively reduce food loss and fight against climate change.


image via Bureau Veritas Certification

Some Stats on Food Waste

  • About 30 to 40 percent of the US food supply is wasted every year (USDA).
  • This is equivalent to 40 million tons of food waste, which is 219 pounds of waste per person (EPA).
  • Globally, around 4 billion tons of food waste is produced annually (FAO of UN).
  • Before COVID, there were about 35 million people struggling with food insecurity. Due to financial instability and job insecurity in recent years, this number is now estimated to be around 50 million people (Feeding America).
  • Food waste accounts for 11 percent of global greenhouse emissions (World Wildlife Fund).
  • Americans waste around 218 billion dollars annually on food (Feeding America).
  • The amount of food waste in the US is equal to the greenhouse emissions of 37 million cars (World Wildlife Federation).
  • 43 percent of food waste comes from homes, followed by 40 percent coming from grocery stores and other food service companies (Feeding America).


image via Wikimedia Commons

California’s Compost Law

In 2022, California passed a state-wide composting mandate requiring people and businesses to separate organic materials from other trash. Over the next two years, the program will provide residents with curbside bins to separate the materials and there will be a fine for those who fail to comply with the law (starting in 2024). With California creating 23 million tons of organic waste annually, this could make a visible difference in the amount of food waste produced in the US.


image via CalMatters

Why We Should Start Composting

The biggest reason to start composting is to fight climate change, but there are plenty of other reasons to start composting.

1. Reduce carbon emissions.

When organic matter decays in a landfill, it produces greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Making your own compost keeps food and yard waste out of recycling bins and out of landfills, reducing your city’s carbon footprint.

2. Improve soil and water quality.

Compost made from food waste and yard trim has more nutrients. This has several benefits on your garden and yard:

  • Improves soil health
  • Prevents soil erosion
  • Conserves water

3. Grow healthier plants.

Nutrient-dense compost not only helps the soil, but also improves the health of your plant’s root systems. In turn, this reduces water runoff because the roots are holding on to more water and the soil stays moist for longer.

4. Reconnect with nature.

Knowing that your compost is going towards helping your garden or yard will make you feel more involved in the development of your plants and crops. And in the larger picture, you’ll know that you’re helping the Earth by turning your food waste into compost.


food scraps inside small compost bin
image via Country Living Magazine

A Beginner’s Guide to Composting

The first question to ask when composting is: outdoors or indoors?

You can compost outdoors with a dedicated area to make a pile or use a bin to hold your food and yard waste. If you’re composting indoors, try storing your food waste in a compost bin on your kitchen counter. You can also reuse food containers to store compost in the fridge or freezer.

emptying container of food scraps into outdoor compost bin

What You Can & Can’t Compost

Here’s what you can compost:

Food Waste


Yard Waste

Meat (including bones)

Greasy pizza boxes

Small branches

Dairy products

Unwaxed paper plates


Fish & shellfish


Lawn grass clippings


Paper towels








Egg shells


Shrub/tree clippings

Coffee grounds







And here’s what you can’t compost:

Palm fronds

Biodegradable materials (will break down, but won't provide nutrients for compost)

Plastic bags

Milk cartons

To-go coffee cups & lids

Paper cups

Milk cartons

Poison oak


Pet/human waste

Poison oak



outdoor compost drop off sign
image via Institute for Local Self-Reliance


Drop Off Compost Locations in LA

We mentioned ways to compost in New York in our previous composting blog post, but we wanted to highlight locations in LA this time!

  • LA Municipal Composting: the city’s curbside compost collection
  • LA Compost: non-profit that partners with locations across the city and helps LA residents find composting facilities
  • Compostable LA: commercial composting facility with paid pick-up and drop-off services


Have you started composting? Let us know in the comments if you do compost and if you have any tips!

 Cover image via Treehugger



California Compost Law 2022

The Top 5 Reasons You Should Start Composting Right Now - The Permaculture Research Institute

Composting At Home | US EPA

Food Waste FAQs | USDA

Food Waste in America in 2022: Statistics & Facts | RTS

California Compost Law: Everything You Need to Know – Pela Earth

Food Loss and Food Waste | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

How to Compost in Los Angeles: 7 Ways of Composting in the City – Pela Earth

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