Thursday, Nov. 15 is America Recycles Day, a day set aside to recognize the economic, environmental and social benefits of recycling.

I hope central Ohioans will take advantage of this day to recycle more of the correct items, buy products made of recycled material, encourage friends and family to recycle or engage in other activities that help decrease the amount of waste we send to the landfill.

Here's a suggestion you may not have thought about: reduce the amount of food you waste.

Food waste is a serious problem worldwide. About 30 percent of the food produced for human consumption never gets eaten. The problem is even worse in the U.S., where as much as 40 percent of food is wasted.

In monetary terms, we're squandering about $165 billion worth of food each year. Worse yet, we're wasting about 50 percent more food than we did in the 1970s.

The problem exists locally, too. Last year, about 13 percent of the material disposed of in the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill was food waste. That's about 143,600 tons of food.

Put another way, we estimate that each household in central Ohio generates about 322 pounds of food waste every year.

Although food waste occurs throughout the food supply chain, individuals are the largest source of food waste. Food is relatively cheap and readily available, so it's easy to buy too much food and, with few misgivings, toss it into the garbage when it rots, expires or sits uneaten.

Yet food waste has staggering consequences. When we waste food, we waste the resources that were used to produce it. By some estimates, getting food from farm to fork uses 30 percent of all energy resources, 50 percent of U.S. land and 80 percent of all fresh water.

Food waste also is the single largest component in municipal landfills, where it creates methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

And as we waste billions of dollars in food, one in eight Americans -- or 41 million people -- struggle with hunger. Reducing food loss by just 15 percent would generate enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans.

In response to this problem, SWACO launched the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative.

About 40 organizations are working together to develop an action plan to prevent food waste, recover edible food waste for redistribution and recycle food waste through agriculture uses, such as composting. We hope to introduce the plan in early 2019.

In the meantime, you can take steps to reduce food waste, especially during the holidays, when even more food tends to be wasted than usual. Here are a few ideas, but more tips are available on SWACO's website, swaco.org.

* Shop smart and plan meals. Make a shopping list based on those meals and buy only what you need.

* Apply the "first in, first out" philosophy. Place older products at the front of your pantry and fridge and put new products in the back.

* Don't make portions too big.

* Save and eat leftovers or use them to make your next meal.

* Keep track of what you repeatedly throw away and avoid buying so much of it in the future.

* Use helpful websites, such as savethefood.com, to help you plan meals.

* Compost food waste for use as fertilizer. Use our easy at-home guide.

With a shift in our thinking and our actions, we can make changes at home that will reduce hunger, use less energy and fewer resources, and significantly benefit our environment. Every little bit counts.

Go to swaco.org for more information and tips.

Ty Marsh is executive director of SWACO. He can be contacted at questions@swaco.org. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Community News.