While the world consumes about 1.4 billion tons of food annually, the United States discards more food than any other country in the world: about 40 million tons – 80 billion pounds – annually. That is estimated to be 30-40 percent of the total US diet, and equivalent to almost 219 pounds [219 kg] of waste per person. It’s as if every American throws more than 650 medium-sized apples right in the trash – or rather dumped in the wild, as most discarded food ends up there. In fact, food is one of the biggest factors taking place within US landfills, 6 making up 22 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW). Food waste in America is posing as a serious problem which will become grave in coming years.
Why Does So Much Food Waste In America Occur?
Prior to COVID-19, it was estimated that 35 million people across the United States – including 10 million children – suffered from food insecurity.8 That number is expected to rise to an estimated 509 million by 2021 due to job losses and falls. Financial epidemic. With so many poor people needing basic food, why are Americans wasting so much of their food? Getting to the bottom of what causes food waste in America is a challenge that transcends the complexities of social and economic inequality, confusion, and deeply ingrained beliefs, morally anointed and ethical. Food spoilage, whether physical or visual, is one of the main reasons why people discard food. More than 80 percent of Americans discard healthy, unhealthy foods just because they do not understand expiration labels. Labels such as “sell,” “use,” “expired,” “best,” or “best” is confusing to people – and in an effort not to risk foodborne illness, they will throw you in the trash.
Food Wastage Has A Negative Impact On The Environment
As the food waste in America movement across the United States grows, it needs to pick up speed to help address one of the world’s most pressing problems: climate change. Non-perishable food has irreversible environmental effects: it wastes water and energy needed to produce and produces greenhouse gases – 11 percent of the greenhouse gases – 12 such as methane, carbon dioxide, and chlorofluorocarbons, contributing to global warming. Rotten food that decomposes in landfills also produces nitrogen pollutants, causing algae blooms and dead areas. According to the World Wildlife Federation, food production in the United States is equivalent to the emissions of 37 million vehicles. If Americans continue the same pattern of food loss, the environmental impact could be catastrophic.
Don’t misinterpret expiration labels on good food to eat.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute, and Harvard University have joined efforts to reduce expiration labels on food quality and safety. It is important to know the difference between the two:
BETTER WHEN USED describes a quality “where the product may not taste or act as expected but is safe to eat”;
BY USE applies “to a few products that are at risk of severe damage and/or have food safety concerns over time.