The folks at Sealed Air recently released the results of their Food Waste Survey, and the numbers are stunning. While the global demand for food has increased exponentially as the population of developing countries skyrockets, more than a third of all the food produced in the U.S. is simply thrown in the garbage. And while Americans are increasingly aware of the issue of food waste, a shocking percentage of them refuse to admit that they’re a part of the problem.
In 2010, America wasted 33.79 million tons of food, 16 percent more than the amount wasted in 2000 — and it’s only gone up since then. At the same time, nearly 18 million households in the United States alone are “food insecure,” meaning that it’s difficult for them to provide enough food for everyone in their family. As brought to light in the recent documentary A Place at the Table, it’s not just third-world countries where hunger is a major problem; food insecurity affects every corner of the United States too, even though on the whole we’re a prosperous and wasteful nation. Nearly 50 million Americans, about one in seven people, rely on food stamps.
There are plenty of opportunities for food to be wasted; it’s not just the fact that we’re not cleaning our plates. For example, every year nearly 2,000 pounds of food are produced for each person, but about 650 pounds are discarded at some point between the farm and the table. This can happen if ripe food sits on the vine for too long before being harvested, if it goes rotten on the grocery store… the ways that food can be thrown out by the middleman are endless. In fact, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, consumer food waste in industrialized countries is about the same as total net food production in sub-Saharan Africa.
So what can you do to help? For one, only buy the food you need, and be conscious of the amount of food that you personally throw away, working to get it down to zero. Find creative ways to repurpose leftovers and when you cook don’t overestimate portion sizes. But the first step is knowing the facts. Read on to learn 10 mind-blowing facts about food waste in America.
What We Throw Away
Each year Americans throw away more than 50 million tons of food. That’s more than 20 percent of all municipal garbage, and the largest contributor to landfills.
Fresh Water Waste
We waste more than 25 percent of our fresh, potable water. Turn the tap off when you’re brushing your teeth!
This was originally published in July 2014.