Food scraps are parts of food products we throw away instead of consuming. Scraps include peels, rinds, seeds, unfinished meals, and spoiled leftovers. Rather than simply binning them, we can better use our food scraps.
Further, food scraps also constitute food waste. And across the world, we have a significant food waste problem. European Union statistics show 2020 food loss at a staggering 59 million tons, with household food loss weighing 31 million tons.
In our quest for sustainable living, food recycling saves costs and helps the environment. This article explores 14 ways to use food scraps. It also shares an overview of the benefits of recycling food scraps.
There are multiple ways to use food scraps instead of throwing them away. These ways include:
Composting is an excellent way to use leftover food. Most leftovers we throw away are often reusable because they are organic food supplies. Sending them as waste to landfills only takes up space and releases harmful gases into the atmosphere. However, you can reduce the waste if you own a garden or a farm or are near one that would value additions to their compost heap.
You'll need to get a compost bin that'll hold the leftovers. Gather the organic materials left from your cooking and put them in. You can also add them directly to your garden soil. Do not add synthetic and plastic materials into the bin because they don't decompose. It is only going to contaminate it.
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Another surprising way to use leftover foods is to make cosmetic and beauty products. Cosmetic products made from food waste are organic and eco-friendly.
For example, you can use chickpea brine to make hair care products because it shares similar properties to egg whites.
The fruit peels and vegetable trimmings you usually throw in the trash are also useful. You can use banana peels as exfoliating loofahs. A banana peel contains high antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that benefit the skin1. Add brown sugar to the peel's surface to increase its exfoliating functions. You can also use citrus peels as a facial cleanser and avocado peels as a face mask or a hydrating moisturizer.
Coffee grounds make excellent exfoliators, so you can include these often discarded grains in your homemade body and facial scrubs. You can also add coffee grounds to your homemade facial masks. It boosts collagen, brightens, and rejuvenates the skin. Mix it with organic materials like turmeric, lemon juice, and granulated sugar.
Used tea bags help in clearing dark circles. So, don't throw your used tea bags away. Instead, keep them in the freezer until you're ready to use them. Potato skins also hold many nutrients that help keep your skin healthy.
You can use leftover scraps to cook more food instead of trashing them. For instance, you can bake stale bread crumbs and turn them into croutons, which will pair well with salads and soups.
You can make a vegetable broth or stock with leftover vegetables and scraps. There are some vegetable parts we throw out, like the fibrous stems, because they don't fit into the meal we are cooking. However, those stems and other excess vegetables boiled up and strained still have their uses. Add the vegetables into a pot of water and spice it to your taste.
Strain the vegetables and let the broth cool before storing them in your freezer. This broth can add flavor to soup and pasta sauce. You can throw in some chicken bones to make homemade stock. In addition, you can stir-fry vegetable stems and make fries.
Did you ever think you could cook corn cobs? Yes, you can. You can make corn stock using corn cobs. First, you need to scrape off the maize on the cobs. Put the cobs inside a large pot of water, add some herbs and spices, and let it simmer for 45 minutes to one hour.
You can make fruit-infused water and drinks by soaking citrus and apple peels. Grinding the peels also adds a refreshing taste to cocktails and mocktails. You can store your herbs in ice cube trays and use them for drinks and cocktails.
You can regrow some vegetables in water and through other forms of transplantation. Some vegetables you can grow from scraps are green onions, scallops, celery, garlic, leafy greens, and other herbs. You can also grow herbs like basil through propagation.
You can make fruit vinegar by fermenting fruit juices. Repurposing fruits for fruit vinegar is an excellent idea because it uses fruits in all stages of freshness, turning unwanted fruit into something usable. Most people are already familiar with apple cider vinegar, but you can make various types of fruit vinegar with mangos, berries, grapes, papaya, and citrus.
There are various methods of making fruit vinegar. You need a glass jar, water, and fruit to make fruit vinegar. If you don't have enough fruit scraps, you can freeze them in a freezer bag until you have enough.
Fill three-quarters of the jar with fruits and add water. Ensure the water covers the top of the fruits before covering them tightly. The water becomes cloudy after two weeks. Strain it, return the water to the jar, and let it sit for another two weeks.
Fruit skins have a lot of benefits. One of these benefits is deodorizing the environment. They can act as an air freshener, reducing unpleasant odors in the area. Orange peels and citrus peels are perfect for this (think dried Xmas decorations and potpourri).
Throw in a couple of orange peels to reduce the heavy smell of the garbage disposal. Also, steaming the peels can release fresh aromas in your kitchen.
Herb-infused oils are highly beneficial to the skin and hair. You can use any oil you choose, like olive, avocado, grapeseed, and coconut oil. Also, the herbs could be fresh or dry. Infusion is quite simple.
Pour the oil of your choosing and herbs into an airtight container. Cover the container tightly and place it in a pot of water. Let it simmer for about 3 hours before straining it. You can just put the herbs in the oil and leave it for months to allow deep infusion.
Sometimes, we can't finish the can of tomatoes we opened. We could have overestimated the amount of fresh tomatoes we blended. Instead of letting the tomato paste waste, freeze the tomato in small portions. Freezing in small portions only allows you to take the quantity you need.
Whenever you make a potato meal, i.e., potato salad, you can use the starchy water from boiling the potatoes to bake bread. It improves the texture and flavor of the bread. In addition, you can use potato water as a thickening agent for gravies, soups, and sauces.
There are other ways you can use vanilla bean pods after you've removed the vanilla beans. You can use the pods to make homemade vanilla extract. Also, you can add the pods into a brown sugar container to give it a vanilla flavor. This will add more flavor to your coffee, baked goods, and other beverages.
You can use a food processor to grind vanilla pods into powder. You can easily apply vanilla powder to baked goods and beverages.
Donate excess food to homeless shelters and food banks to avoid food loss. Various food bank foundations own different food bank collection points. You can drop off your extra food at these locations because they ensure food gets to those needing it.
You can donate any edible item apart from fresh foods, i.e., canned goods that are almost expired. And, of course, unspoiled and still suitable for human consumption.
You can donate leftover food scraps to animal farms and shelters to reduce food waste. Helping farmers feed their livestock with food waste reduces the amount of grains consumed by livestock farming. Since humans cannot consume some of the waste, feeding it to animals and livestock is a better option that helps to reduce waste.
Look for livestock farms near you or your local market and ask if they accept waste food donations and any criteria they might have depending on their livestock.
Rabbit owners can feed them leftover vegetable trimmings. If you live in an area with many chickens and goats, they can eat anything from spinach, red cabbage, berries, lettuce, banana, and vegetable peels.
Another way of reducing food waste is by converting it into biogas. Biogas occurs because of anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion is the process of microorganisms breaking down organic matter without oxygen. So, the organic matter only produces biogas when it breaks down in an enclosed space.
Biogas contains a high percentage of methane gas and small amounts of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and hydrogen. It is a process that happens naturally during composting. To produce biogas with leftovers, you'll need an anaerobic digester. Then, burn the harvested gas to produce electricity.
Related read: How Can We Convert Food Waste to Energy?
You can benefit significantly from reusing all the food scraps in your kitchen. Some of them are:
Reusing food waste saves you from spending more money as an individual or a business. As a restaurant, using food waste reduces the money you’ll spend purchasing fresh ingredients.
Although food waste is organic waste that decomposes easily, it contributes to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Rotting food in landfills releases very harmful methane gas. By recycling food scraps, we are reducing the methane gas in the environment. Thus reducing the occurrence of climate change.
Also, being an eco-friendly food service brand that recycles waste is attractive to people practicing sustainable living. It's an excellent marketing strategy to attract environmentally conscious people.
To practice a zero-waste lifestyle, you should reduce the waste you produce in all areas of your life. One of these areas is food. Food loss is one of the significant contributors to climate change. It is in our best interests to reduce food loss to the barest minimum.
Have a food scrap container in your kitchen to hold leftover items while determining how to repurpose them. Various recipes use food scraps to cook new, delicious meals. Sometimes, all you have to do is boil or stir-fry to create a new meal.
Hikal WM, Said-Al Ahl HAH, Bratovcic A, Tkachenko KG, Sharifi-Rad J, Kačániová M, Elhourri M, Atanassova M. Banana Peels: A Waste Treasure for Human Being. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2022 May 13;2022:7616452.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.