Food Waste Facts
40% of food produced in the United States is wasted.
Across the globe, it’s about 30%. It matters because the vast majority (94%) of wasted food goes to the landfill where it rots without oxygen and releases methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas at least 28x more potent than carbon dioxide and is a driver of the effects of climate change. Food we waste releases greenhouse gasses equivalent to almost 33 million cars!
World's Dumbest Problem
Food waste has been called the World’s Dumbest Problem because there are so many people who are without enough to eat or are food insecure. In fact, there’s enough food wasted globally to feed all 815 million chronically hungry people, FOUR times over. Yet, those of us with means to replace it, allow edible food to go to waste on a daily basis.
The average American wastes about 1 pound of food DAILY
The average American wastes about 1 pound of food daily, totalling close to $550 annually. Of this wasted food 68% was edible, so we aren’t counting egg shells, banana peels, and coffee grinds. Food waste is a slice of pizza, half a hamburger, a slimy cucumber.
When you throw away a wilted carrot, found too late in the back of your fridge, it’s only the tip of the wasteful iceberg. Consider the resources that went into growing, picking, packing, shipping, and selling you that carrot. Wasting half of a hamburger is equivalent to running your shower for 90 minutes - that’s how much water went into producing just half of it!
Composting often comes up at this point as a solution, and though composting is better than the landfill (because methane is not produced), edible food that’s not eaten is still a waste of the other resources.
Around 70 percent of the Earth’s water and 50 percent of the land is taken up in agriculture.
To feed the population in 2050 - with our current rates of loss and waste - we’ll need to produce twice as much food, but we don’t have the space or the water to do so.
Of course, not letting a banana go to waste at your house, does not feed someone in need across town. It’s also unlikely that you’re throwing out $20 worth of food at at time. If either of these situations were the case, changing your habits would be faster, easier, and more visually rewarding.
But, our individual actions do add up. It matters that you eat everything you purchase, because then you’ll buy less overall, you’ll send less to the landfill overall, your children will notice and carry the lesson outside the house, your friends will notice and be more like you, a community grows, culture changes, local laws and policies change because of how we act, state laws change because of what communities vote for with their dollars and actions. Then food recovery systems are set up for saving edible food and donating it to those in need. Eventually, that carrot you didn’t waste does (still metaphorically) get into the hands of someone who will eat it and reduces greenhouse gasses. When we all act in this way, it snowballs.
Whether you’re motivated to save money, save water, reduce greenhouse gasses, or to do your part to preserve the beauty and abundance of our planet for the next generation - reducing food waste is a great place to start.