Have you looked at the food waste that is left over on your kai table after each meal time and thought about where it goes?
According to 'Love Food, Hate Waste' we throw away 122,547 tonnes of food a year in New Zealand. That is equivalent to 213 jumbo jets of food that has to go somewhere to rot, instead of being eaten.
However, not all of that wasted food has to go to landfill. You can easily reduce or eliminate it by finding some way to compost it. That could be by putting it in local council greenwaste bins (if you are in an area that provides these), or even better set up a composing system with the tamariki in your centre.
There are three main composting systems that you can choose:
1. Start a compost bin
Not only will a compost bin help to reduce food waste, it is also reduces garden waste too. A compost bin needs to be made up of nitrogen-based (eg food scraps, garden waste, lawn clippings) and carbon-based (eg dry leaves, shredded newspaper and cardboard) waste added in a 3:1 ratio. Over time this waste breaks down to a lovely crumbly soil-like product to add to garden. It is a great way for tamariki to learn about the science of decomposing and waste reduction and re-use. While there are many benefits to a compost bin, especially if you have a large garden, there are also disadvantages too. It takes a long time to break down the waste, and you need to have a ready supply of the components needed to make a healthy compost bin. When thinking about food waste, you cannot put meat, dairy or oils and fats in the compost bin as it will attract rodents and the worms that help decompose the waste do not like dairy or oils and fats.
2. Start a worm farm
Worm farms are brilliant to reduce food waste and teach tamariki about the value of worms for our ecosystem. Tiger worms are used in worm farms as they primarily eat food waste turning it into fertiliser to be used in the garden. Worms eat their weight in food each day, and will eat most food scraps, although avoid feeding them meat scraps, citrus peel, onion and garlic, fats or oils, dairy and spicy foods such as chilli. A worm farm that stacks with different trays is the easiest way for early childhood centres to maintain as you add the food waste to the trays, and the liquid collects into the bottom vat, which can be easily drained off. This is the liquid fertiliser than can be diluted to use on your garden, and any surplus can be sold as a fund raiser. As the first tray fills, add another tray on top, and eventually you will have vermicast in the bottom tray, which also can be added to the garden. Worms do need to be fed regularly and kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They will eat more when the weather is warmer. You can get your tamariki involved in the worm farm, be encouraging them to help feed the worms. This helps them to learn about caring for other creatures in our environment. As tamariki love to water, they will also love to fertilise the garden using the liquid fertiliser.
3. Start a Bokashi bucket system
A bokashi bucket system is another great way to reduce food waste. The system involves two buckets that fit inside each other. The top one has holes in the bottom for the liquid to drain through, and a tight fitting lid. Almost all of your food scraps can go into the bokashi bucket, including meat. The only things that really cannot go into a bokashi bucket are meat bones, yoghurt and liquids. The bokashi system processes the food waste by fermenting it and draining the liquid out of the waste into the bottom bucket. Each time you add scraps to the bucket, you add some of the bokashi mix (which you can purchase). When the bucket is full you put a thick layer of the bokashi mix and leave for about a week before burying the food scraps in the garden. They break down within 2-3 weeks. The liquid that you drain off can be used diluted as a fertiliser or poured directly into your kitchen or bathroom drains. You will need more than one bucket system so you can be filling the next one while the first is fermenting when it is full. You can easily make these bucket systems yourself, and just purchase the bokashi mix separately, or purchase a complete set.
Whichever system you choose to reduce your food waste will not only be helping the environment, but will also help tamariki to understand the science of how waste decomposes, while teaching them how to reduce their own impact on the environment.