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Laying Less Food to Waste: 10 Facts To Know

It’s just one potato… how much harm could come from wasting it?

Collectively, more than you might think. 

We’ve all been there. The end of the workweek sneaks up on us and the groceries we bought with the highest of hopes the Sunday prior remain untouched. Maybe late nights at the office kept you from cooking, or you received an unexpected dinner invite from an old friend, or it could be you just overestimated how much food you could consume.

But how many of us have stopped to consider the collective impact of our wasteful ways?

The truth is, food waste is easy to dismiss as little more than a harmless habit on an individual level, but the data is in– and the facts show this habit is one of the most harmful contributors to global climate change.

We’ve gathered the evidence below– If you’re still unconvinced, keep reading for some mind-blowing facts about food waste in the US. The following facts should be enough to convince anyone it’s time to kick waste to the wayside.

1) Approximately 40% of food waste in the US happens at home. Yes, you read that right. Finding ways to reduce waste among restaurants and commercial businesses is certainly important, but much of the fight can be won our own turf.

2) “Food Waste” is a relative definition: It is defined as any food that is grown and produced for human consumption but ultimately is not eaten. As measured, this does not include “byproducts” like the brewers grain, coffee fruit or okara. While these retain nutritional value, they have historically not been used for human consumption . Brewer’s grain alone accounts for approximately 20 billion pounds per annum in the United States.

3) Food Waste doesn’t just waste meals– it also wastes resources. For example, over 1/5 of all freshwater is used to grow crops that are never eaten. To put it in ReGrained’s light, growing the grain used to make one six pack of beer is approximately equivalent to a 2 hour shower!

4) Weighing in at 52 MILLION TONS, Food Waste is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the landfills. As the #1 contributor to landfills in the US, Food Waste occupies an astounding 21% of all landfill volume.

5) The decomposition of Food Waste in landfills creates the release of methane, one of the most troublesome greenhouse gases. Methane traps heat in the atmosphere at ~30x the rate of its more commonly discussed partner in crime, carbon dioxide.

6) Wasted food generates climate change pollution equivalent to 37 million cars per year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. You’ve probably considered carpooling, but perhaps it’s time to ponder methods of shrinking your footprint through food.

7) Wasting food wastes money. The average American family of four throws away $1,600 worth of produce annually. If you’re looking for extra motivation to reduce waste, think of fighting Food Waste as your new piggy bank!

8) Up to 50 percent of produce tossed by food distributors is still edible. Americans have been conditioned to pristine looking produce thanks to skin-deep supermarket standards. Unfortunately, that means aesthetically imperfect (but perfectly edible!) produce is tossed by distributors to cater to consumer preferences.

9) 90% of Americans admit to occasionally throwing away food based on the printed date on the label. But according to the USDA, “best-by,” “sell-by,” and “use-by” dates are indicators of quality and freshness, not safety. In fact, there is no federally regulated system for food date labeling and standards vary greatly among states and manufacturers.

10) 1 in 8 Americans struggles to put enough food on the table. Food Waste does not create hunger, but according to the NRDC, if we were theoretically able to rescue and redistribute just 15% of food wasted each year, we’d save enough to feed 25 million Americans. That’s 60% of our country’s food insecure population. Push that number to 33%, and our nation’s unmet food needs could be covered.

The purpose of these facts is NOT to spread gloom and doom– but to enlighten each of us as to how much power we have to initiate change.

We started ReGrained with the understanding that big change begins with small habits. We urge you, before tossing any food (even carrot tops!), consider creative opportunities for its use. Think like an upcycler! Perhaps a perfect panzanella, strata, or waste free waffles is in the works? Let us know. 

Give the bin a break – It’s got enough rubbish to deal with. 

 

References: 

https://www.refed.com/?sort=economic-value-per-ton

http://thefoodtrust.org/uploads/media_items/grocerygap.original.pdf

https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-food-IP.pdf

http://foodshift.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/FoodWasteStatisticsandBibliography.pdf

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/food-product-dating

https://www.nrdc.org/media/2013/130918

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