BioCycle August 2008, Vol. 49, No. 8, p. 4
THE NAME GAME, AGAIN
EARLIER this summer we received an email from Josh Marx, Senior Planner for King County (WA) Solid Waste about BioCycle’s use of the term “food waste.” Marx, a long-time BioCycle reader and pioneer in municipal programs to divert organics from landfills to composting, believes it is important to refer to discarded food as anything but “waste.” In his email, he pointed out that in the June issue, BioCycle made an attempt to use a more appropriate term, i.e., food scraps, however in the 56-page issue, we still managed to use “waste” 92 times, and “scraps” only 22 times.
Wrote Marx: “Food ‘waste’ implies material that is useless, unproductive or obsolete. The term’s continued use does nothing to support or educate the cause and encourage participation in organics recycling… When something is viewed as waste, the default behavior is the garbage or the ‘I don’t care about’ option. Food scrap programming is in its infancy and the time is ideal to pitch it now as anything but ‘waste’. I again challenge you to strike from the BioCycle mindset the term ‘Food Waste’. Why not challenge your readers or the industry to come up with a new term? How about doing a contest and then with a new term, use it over and over and over. You and your editors can scold anyone when they hear the dreaded term that only degrades the feedstock we all love and want/need so badly to be diverted from the traditional MSW stream.”
In the editorial in the August 2007 issue of BioCycle, we tackled this nomenclature challenge. We invited readers to send in suggestions for alternatives to food “waste.” Among the suggestions received were discards, leftover food, scraps, and nutrients in transition. Several people suggested sticking with waste for various reasons.
In the past year, we have alternated primarily between scraps and waste in numerous articles on the topic. As we were putting this issue to bed, a heated discussion broke out on the subject, and in the end, I agreed that for the time being, we will go with food “waste,” as scraps still doesn’t seem to encompass the range of residuals that fall into that category. Thus you will see this month’s section on food composting titled “Food Waste Management” versus “Food Scraps Management.”
Perhaps the bigger message – highlighted in this month’s cover story on the groundbreaking report, Stop Trashing the Climate (article begins on page 24) – is that at this point in time, we are a society of wasting. We throw away far more than we recover, which has serious implications for the climate. Write authors Brenda Platt and Eric Lombardi, “for every ton of municipal trash, about 71 tons of waste are produced during manufacturing, mining, oil and gas exploration, agriculture and coal combustion. This requires a constant flow of resources to be pulled out of the Earth, processed in factories, shipped around the world, and burned or buried in our communities. At each step, energy is consumed and greenhouse gases are released … Wasting equals climate change.”
We wholeheartedly agree with Josh Marx that we need different terminology for the resources we continue to bury and burn. “Scraps” seems to work nicely for household food that hasn’t been consumed, but what about the tons of rotting vegetables from a produce warehouse that lost its power during a summer storm? “Scraps” doesn’t seem adequate. At the end of the day, however, our biggest challenge is to change the behavior and mindset so that, as soon as possible, today’s waste truly becomes tomorrow’s resources. — Nora Goldstein