Half-eaten slices of pepperoni pizza. A torn banana. A pair of apples.
Take a look at any high school cafeteria, and you’d probably see this very scene: kids not finishing their food, as a result, it all ending up in the trash. Now, this is a problem for a multitude of reasons, food insecurity being the most obvious to us. All that food could have certainly gone to someone in need, particularly in my local county, where 18,000 people lack access to adequate, nutritious food. However, the issue I want to focus today on is a little less obvious, a little less in your face.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste is the most common material in municipal landfills, and as it sits there, lying in the sun, it releases harmful methane gas. Methane emissions are one of the greatest contributors to global warming, and food waste alone accounts for 14.1% of those emissions.
Climate change can often make us feel anxious, wondering how we can solve a problem so big. This problem, however, has a clear solution. Composting.
Now, in January, high schools in California, such as my own, were mandated by law to “prevent, reduce the generation of, and recycle organic waste.” On paper, that’s great news — students would have a clear avenue toward solving the greatest contributors to our generation’s greatest problem, with an understanding of how to safely dispose of their unwanted food.
However, by the time my school got out in early June, there had yet to be any changes made to my cafeteria. If I wanted to compost my remaining scraps, for instance, there was still only one option: the trash. Unfortunately, a representative from my high school was unable to be reached for comment. But, I have to wonder, why weren’t schools ready come day one, considering this law had been known for some time, and how many other schools out there have also yet to get on board?
If we as a state are seriously going to try to tackle climate change, then we have to be serious with the policies that we enforce. It’s no good having a law on composting if its only worth is the paper it’s printed on. Good laws must go beyond good words. They need to be implemented with care and deliberation.
Come Labor Day, I am calling for all high schools in California to have adequate measures to help their students begin composting. Just this year, the IPCC reported that if we don’t make serious changes now, the planet will undergo irreversible changes. In that respect, we don’t have one more day to lose, nonetheless another semester.
We need to change now.