According to the DNR’s 2020-2021 Statewide Waste Characterization Study, food waste makes up 20% of the trash headed to our landfills. Approximately 854,000 tons of food waste and scraps were sent to the state’s landfills in 2020 – that’s 294 pounds per Wisconsinite. The DNR estimates that using or composting the amount of food waste sent to state landfills in 2020 would equal the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from taking nearly 600,000 passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

The City of Madison, through our work in the NRDC’s Food Matters Initiative, passed a resolution committing Madison to reducing food scraps to the landfill by 50% by 2030. Ways in which you can join us in reaching this goal include:

  • Have a Plan for meals;
  • Use what you have and store food correctly;
  • Create additional opportunity for food to be recovered or reimagined; and lastly,
  • Scrap food bits into compost to keep nutrients from going into the landfill.

Planning your shopping list with weekly meals in mind can save you money and time. If you only buy what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and use it all. You can learn more about how to best store food from the USDA here. Good planning could save a family of four $1,500 a year!

It can be difficult sometimes to know how best to deal with leftovers or ingredients that need to be used up. Don’t despair – there are dozens of recipe websites and cookbooks that focus on food waste reduction. Use your search engine, or visit your local bookstore, and you can find the right recipe guides for your tastes and cooking skills.

For that last step, I am excited to announce the City’s first Farmers’ Market Drop-Off Site for food scraps. Through a grant from the USDA, we will have a table and workers set up to collect your food scraps at the South Madison Farmers’ Market on Tuesday evenings starting June 14th. We will also be standing up the City’s first very small scale community composting site at a local community garden. Of course, you can compost at home too – see our how-to guide here.

For other waste streams that are resources – did you know in Wisconsin, over 20% of what we throw away is paper and over 17% of what we throw away is plastic, both of which can be recycled? Wisconsin’s recycling law bans a number of materials from landfill disposal, including cardboard, paper, cans and bottles, and recycling is mandatory in the City of Madison.

That is why we are pleased to share that our award-winning Master Recycler program is back for 2022! Register now for the July sessions where you can learn the ins and outs of our local recycling system and get your recycling questions answered. In partnership with Sustain Dane, the Master Recycler program will give you the tools you need to teach your family, neighbors, friends and coworkers how to improve recycling and community sustainability.

There is only one Earth and no planet B – let’s work together to leave it better than the way we found it.

Learn More:

Recycle Better


More information on how to compost at home:

Home Composting Materials:

How To Compost:

Home Composting:

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Category: Sustainability