Is food waste biodegradable? ( 5 ways to reduce food wastage)

This blog shall discuss whether food waste is biodegradable. It shall also cover other areas like:

  • Types of food wastes.
  • How food wastes are affecting the environment.
  • The biodegradation process of food waste.
  • The advantages of food waste biodegradation.
  • The eco-friendliness of food waste.

Is food waste biodegradable?

Yes, food waste can be degraded by microorganisms into smaller, non-toxic particles. Food waste is any food substance that has not been consumed. It can range from table leftovers to kitchen spills, and wastes during food processing, production, packaging, and distribution.

Food wastage is a major environmental concern the world over. According to research, about one-third of food produced in the United States is not consumed.

The wastage of food has a greater impact on the economy, this is because when food is wasted, it leads to the wastage of resources such as the labor cost that was used to produce it, resources such as water, energy, and fertilizers used in food production are also wasted.

Food wastage will always have a ripple effect on the economy. It leads to food shortage and therefore the manpower for economic growth is reduced and hence affecting the economy.

In 2015, EPA and the United States department of agriculture established a national goal to reduce food loss by half by the year 2030. Through sustainable management, food waste can be reduced, and therefore those affected by food shortages can access food.

The biodegradation of food waste is a complex process that requires several agents such as bacteria and fungi.

Biodegradation is the process by which microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi break down organic waste such as food waste into small biomass, producing other products like carbon dioxide, water, and methane gas.

The agents of biodegradation include:


  • Sunlight.
  • Temperature.
  • Bacteria.
  • Fungi.


This causes degradation by carrying the materials and causing mechanical breakdown.


Some light wavelengths cause the mechanical breakdown of organic materials into smaller particles.


Temperature causes the expansion and contraction of organic materials.

This causes the material to experience stress which in return results in mechanical breakdown.


Bacteria break down organic material through the process of respiration to form small particles which they use to acquire energy.

The most common and active bacteria include:

  • Pseudomonas.
  • Bacillus.
  • Mycobacteria.


They break down organic matter into small particles which they then assimilate into their body systems.

They include:

  • Yeasts.
  • Mushrooms
  • Molds.
  • Mildew.
  • Lichens.

Types of biodegradation.

Types of biodegradation include:

Aerobic biodegradation.

This entails bacteria and fungi breaking down organic matter by the use of oxygen.

The end products include water, carbon dioxide, small particles( small biomass), and energy.

This process is faster than anaerobic biodegradation.

Anaerobic biodegradation.

This entails the bacteria breaking down organic matter in the absence of oxygen.

The end products include water, methane gas, small particles ( small biomass), and energy.

This process is slower as compared to aerobic biodegradation although it is more efficient.

Steps of biodegradation.

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct steps:

  • Biodeterioration.
  • Bio-fragmentation.
  • Assimilation.


This is the first stage of biodegradation.

Organic materials are mechanically broken down by light, water, and temperature into smaller particles that are easily acted upon by bacteria and fungi.


This is the second stage of biodegradation.

Organic matter is broken down by bacteria and fungi, either aerobically or anaerobically.

Water, carbon dioxide, methane gas, energy, and small biomass are produced depending on the type of process.


It’s the last stage of biodegradation.

Involves the uptake of biomass produced into the body system of the bacteria or fungi to be used in various biological processes.

Types of biodegradable wastes.

The following are the materials that can undergo biodegradation.

  • wastes.
  • Human waste.
  • Paper waste.
  • Animal waste.
  • Dead animals.
  • Dead plants.
  • Waxes and oils 
  • Organic alcohol.
  • Organic acids.
  • Natural rubbers.

Advantages of biodegradation.

Biodegradation has several advantages which include the following:

  • It cleans the environment of the wastes.
  • Applicable to a wide range of products.
  • It can be triggered through composting
  • It is cost-effective.
  • Results to soil enrichment with nutrients.
  • Used to produce bioenergy.
  • Biodegradation through fermentation has led to the manufacturing of drugs.
  • It leads to the production of organic acids and alcohol.

Disadvantages of biodegradation.

Biodegradation has several disadvantages which include:

  • This leads to wear and tear of organic-based materials such as clothes.
  • It takes a very long time to degrade waste.
  • When used to produce bioenergy, it requires a lot of biomass.
  • It is easily affected by contaminants such as oil and antibiotics.
  • It is only limited to organic matter.

What is sustainable food management?

Sustainable food management is a collection of methods aimed at reducing food wastage and the impacts of food wastage on the environment.

Sustainable food management can help by providing food to those who do not have it, helping producers save money, and conserve resources, by using the concept of “reduce, reuse, recycle”.

Wasted food is food that was not consumed for different reasons. It includes unsold food in retail shops, plate wastes, and leftovers, kitchen trimmings for restaurants, hotels, and households, or the by-products of food processing.

Food wastage can be reduced by donating excess food to feed people, using excess food to make animal feeds, composting to make manure, or putting wastes in landfills.

Advantages of sustainable food management.

The following are the advantages of sustainable food management.

  • It helps to save money used for trash pickups.
  • Waste is reduced and therefore, less food is spent.
  • Food donations help feed the world.
  • Job creation through processes like recycling, reusing, composting, and donating; all these activities require human resources.
  • Food management helps in reducing environmental pollution by reducing methane gas in the atmosphere which is released through anaerobic biodegradation.
  • It helps save the resources which were used in producing the wasted food; water, energy, labor, land, and fertilizers.

What ways can be used to reduce food wastage?

Reducing food wastage does not only save one some money, but it also helps conserve the environment.

Food wastage can be reduced through the following means.

  • Buy only what you need to avoid excess food which will eventually spoil and end up as waste.
  • Proper food storage to minimize spoilage by bacteria and fungi.
  • Understanding labels on food products are of great importance. The “Best before” label is usually confused with “use-by” labels. 

The best before date does not mean the food will expire after the date and so it is still consumable even after the best before date. The use-by date is the expiry date.

  • Always consider consuming the leftover. Leftovers can be well managed by being put safely and avoiding mixing them up.
  • Always cook what you need and can finish before spoilage. Avoid large meals which will lead to more leftovers.

How can food waste be managed?

  • According to a study report, food wastes such as banana peels, corn, coffee, and bread can be used to make bioplastics for packaging. These bioplastics are biodegradable and will reduce environmental pollution.
  • Food waste can be composted to form manure which can be used in crop production as fertilizer.
  • Food waste can be reused to make animal feed.

What is the impact of food wastage on the environment?

Food wastage can have a lot of negative effects on the environment.

The following are some of the effects:

  • It leads to the wastage of resources such as water and energy.
  • The decomposition of food waste results in the production of methane gas which has a greenhouse effect.
  • Waste food leads to landfills, making the land unproductive.
  • Food wastes produced chemicals that might pollute water and soil.
  • Decomposition of food wastes attracts house flies and other insects that are vectors for some pathogens.
  • Land that is used to produce these tonnes of wasted food may be used for a different purpose.


This article has covered the biodegradation process of food waste.

It has also addressed other areas like.

  • Sustainable food management.
  • Advantages of sustainable food management.
  • Ways of reducing food wastage.
  • The impacts of food wastage on the environment.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is food waste biodegradable?

Which waste is biodegradable?

Any waste made from organic products such as food waste, dead plants, and animals, is biodegradable.

Is kitchen waste non-biodegradable?

No, kitchen waste is a type of biodegradable waste because it is made of organic plant products which are susceptible to microbial degradation.

What are examples of food waste?

Food wastes include the following:

  • Spoilt food.
  • Non-consumed leftovers.
  • Processing and packaging food wastes.
  • Food served and not eaten.
  • Vegetable cuttings from hotels and households.


Leela S. Dilkes-Hoffman, Joe L. Lane, Tim Grant, Steven Prant. (10 April 2018). Environmental impact of biodegradable food packaging when considering food waste. Journal of Cleaner Production. pg 325-334.

Retrieved from:

Bellemare, Marc F.; Çakir, Metin; Peterson, Hikaru Hanawa; Novak, Lindsey; Rudi, Jeta (2017). “On the Measurement of Food Waste”. American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 99 (5): 1148–1158. doi:10.1093/ajae/aax034.

Environment, U. N. (2021-03-04). “UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021” (PDF). UNEP – UN Environment Programme. Archived from the original on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 2022-02-01.

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