Ends and Beginnings

Published September 04, 2018

Summer days have grown noticeably shorter, students have returned to school, and our beloved Husker men and women have returned to their sports arenas. Ends and beginnings offer an opportunity to take stock of one’s habits. Did you know that municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest human-generated source of methane emissions in the United States and that decomposition of organics (30 to 40% of all MSW) produces methane? Large quantities of food and packaging waste are generated from school lunches and at tailgate parties, but there are many steps we can take to reduce this.

Single serve items such as juice pouches, yogurt cups, chip bags, prepackaged cookies, and sandwiches packed in plastic bags are generated daily by kids who bring their lunch from home. According to WasteFreeLunches.org, “it is estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school. Waste-free lunch programs favor the use of reusable food containers, drink containers, utensils, and napkins and discourage the use of disposable packaging.” An estimated $246.60 could be saved per person each school year by packing foods in reusable containers.

If you’re hosting a tailgate, make it easy for guests to compost and recycle their paper plates, beverage containers, and leftovers. Set up bins, buckets, or bags and clearly label them. If you have a big crowd, make signs that clearly illustrate what materials should go where. For a smaller crowd, ask each one to bring their own reusable drink container, cloth napkin, and utensils.

Compostable plates, cups, napkins and utensil sets are much less expensive than they were a few years ago. It makes disposal easy because the dinnerware and food residue go in the same bin. Contact your local composting service to arrange for disposal.

If you must serve beverages in plastic bottles, make sure they can be recycled before purchasing. Coach guests to empty contents from all single use beverage containers, replacing caps on plastic bottles before placing in the recycle bin.

Do a little research, plan ahead, buy local, and everyone wins. Go Huskers!