Food Waste - One of the biggest problems in the US

Author: Ellie Livitsanou

Editors: Lydia Ren and Anand Soma

Artist: Karen Liu

The US wastes 40%, or 120 - 180 billion pounds, of food annually, something that has a massive impact on the country’s economy as well as the environment. But what is wasted food? Wasted food is split into two main categories; food waste and food loss. There are many kinds of food loss, including in stores and homes, food that goes bad in transportation, food left on the field, and all the other food that doesn’t even make it to the store. Food waste is a type of food loss classified by the United States Department of Agriculture as food thrown away by stores and retailers because of its appearance (color, shape, etc) as well as food wasted by consumers (food scraps, sour milk, etc).

Food loss happens at every single stage of the food’s life, on farms, fishing boats, retail, production processes, and even in homes and restaurants. Food loss on farms is a huge problem. The United States uses nearly 16% of its total energy budget, 50% of all land, and 80% of all freshwater on food production processes. It’s a really big waste too, because around 20 billion pounds of produce is lost on farms annually. It occurs on farms for various reasons: Farmers often plant more than needed to have a good amount of pests and bad weather occur, usually more than the consumers demand. Market conditions can also lead farms to throw away perfectly edible food. This is not only wasteful but also bad for the environment.

FACT: If food waste was reduced by just 15%, we could provide sustenance for 25 million people every year. Crazy right!

What can we do about it? Well, food waste in households is usually caused by these five reasons: 1. Over preparing, 2. Food Spoilage, 3. Overbuying, 4. Confusion between labeling (Use by vs Best Before) and 5. Poor Planning. Most of these are preventable with good planning, something that would help lessen the tremendous impact food waste has on the environment.

The environmental impacts of food waste are huge since only 5% of food is composted and it’s the largest component of solid waste. So, most of the food goes to the landfill, where it breaks down and eventually produces methane, a greenhouse gas found to be 86 times stronger than CO2. In fact, if we removed all the UK food waste from landfills it would be the equivalent of removing ⅕th of the cars in the country. Furthermore, food waste is responsible for 25% of freshwater consumption and is also the leading cause of freshwater pollution. Next time when you consider letting your food go to waste, think about the huge impact that the small act will create on the environment.

Citation:

“Food Waste Is a Massive Problem-Here's Why.” FoodPrint, -, 15 Apr. 2020, foodprint.org/issues/the- problem-of-food-waste/.

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