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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Food Trash and Climate Change, or Don't Flump Muffin Stumps in Dumps (for the Week of June 15, 2008)

June 13, 2008

Q. Dear Twig: Where do the burnt black French fries that I throw out at a restaurant go?

A. Probably into a hole in the ground. Here's their trip, in a nutshell:

The trash in the can gets dumped with a flump in the back end of a garbage truck. The garbage truck drives to a dump, a landfill. The trash gets dumped in the dump, pa-dump. The trash and the burnt black fries in the trash get buried by tons of more dumped trash. The fries get cut off from oxygen, gak! But anaerobic ("an-air-OH-bik"; no oxygen) microbes jump in. They decompose the fries.

The problem: Anaerobic decomposition — of burnt black fries, apple cores, muffin stumps, etc. — gives off methane, a strong greenhouse gas. And greenhouse gases, at too-high levels, can make Earth hotter and cause global climate change. Scientists say that's happening now. They say we should do things to slow down or stop it.

Next: A thing we can do with those fries that can help!



P.S. How big's the problem? The U.S. alone dumps some 26 million tons of food trash a year.


The figure of 26 million tons a year comes from the Ohio Compost Association (OCA). The group is helping sponsor a conference on the topic June 27. A press release on it by Twig's little friend is here: The conference Web site: The conference title: "Create a Diversion."

Also check out the Compostable Organics Out of Landfills (COOL) 2012 campaign,, whose name spells out what it thinks we should do and by when it thinks we should do it.

About This:

"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College — is a weekly feature for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It's written at, to and for a 4th-grade reading level.

For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691,, (330) 263-3776.

Online at

Kurt Knebusch