Food waste is bigger than the carton of leftovers you found in the back of your fridge. When we think of food waste, we often think of the produce we forgot to eat or the last few bites we left on our plate. While food waste may not seem like that big of a deal (after all, there’s always more at the grocery store, right?) the numbers tell a different story.
Globally, we waste a third of the food produced for human consumption. In America, that equates to approximately one pound of food per person wasted per day. If we keep this up, reports estimate that in 10 years, we’ll waste the equivalent of 66 tons of food per second across the globe.
There’s more to food waste than what we eat and don’t. We’re wasting an estimated $2.6 trillion globally while depleting resources and harming our environment. But there are several steps you can take to reduce food waste today. Keep reading for more food waste facts.
What are the Causes of Food Waste?
There’s a wide range of causes that go beyond just tossing our leftovers in the trash. From production to consumption, food waste happens at every level you can imagine. For example:
- Manufacturers overproduce to meet contract requirements
- Food transporters don’t have proper infrastructure to keep food safe
- Retailers toss perfectly edible food because of aesthetic standards
- Restaurants insufficiently plan what ingredients they need
- Consumers lack awareness over nutritional basics
What are the Effects of Food Waste?
- Increases methane gasses in landfills
- Wastes natural resources like oil, water, and land
- Impacts global hunger
- Results in trillions of dollars wasted on uneaten food
- Negatively affects natural food chain as animals rely on trash
Food Waste Pollution Facts
If we collectively work together —food producers, retailers, consumers, governments and citizens — we can start combating these many issues.
Food waste is a staggering problem across the world that’s only increasing. In America alone, we’ve increased our waste by nearly 50 percent compared to 40 years ago. These 14 food waste facts highlight just some of the ways food waste impacts our everyday life and helps show us what we can do to start solving the problem.
Fact 1: One person is credited with reducing an entire country’s food waste by 25%. So, it’s safe to say that your actions can really make a difference in solving this ongoing problem.
Fact 2: Fruits and vegetables, seafood, bread, lentils, meat, and dairy are some of the most commonly tossed food in the world. Forty-six percent (46%) of foods wasted are typically root vegetables, like potatoes, beets, and carrots.
Fact 3: A healthier diet can equate to a greater amount of food waste, largely due to fruits and vegetables which require a lot of water and go bad quickly. Properly storing and preparing produce is key.
Fact 4: Food waste accounts for 8% of global emissions, making it a significant contributor to climate change.
Fact 5: Less than 3% of food waste is recycled, which means food waste takes up more than 20% of our landfills and incinerators.
Fact 6: Grocery stores are severely lacking when it comes to handling food waste. Out of the 10 largest grocery chains, not a single store received an A rating. Walmart ranked the best for their sustainability efforts, and only one retailer reports their total volume of food waste.
Fact 7: In 2016, France became the first country to ban food waste in stores. Only five states in the U.S. have legislated similar bans, and five cities have followed suit.
Fact 8: Food is often safe even after it “expires.” Expiration labels — like “sell by” and “best by” — are misleading and not standardized, leading many consumers to toss out perfectly good food too early.
Fact 9: A recent study funded by the United States Department of Agriculture found that global preferences for a “western diet” — high intake of carbohydrates, sugar, sodium — are major contributors to environmental burdens like greenhouse gas emissions and land use.
Fact 10: Shrink wrapping or plastic packaging our produce actually helps reduce food waste by increasing the shelf life. Be sure to recycle the plastic in the collection bins in front of your grocery store!
Fact 11: Lack of awareness of basic nutrition adds to food waste among consumers. Many people believe it’s better to buy fresh food that often goes bad when in reality, frozen food products often retain more nutrients.
Fact 12: The amount of food wasted could feed every hungry person in the world — again, and again, and again, and again.
Fact 13: Having a big refrigerator can impact your food waste. You’re more likely to forget about food you have, improperly store your food and buy more than you can eat before it goes bad.
Fact 14: Unrealistic beauty standards don’t just affect our body image. They also impact our food waste problem. Farmers, retailers and consumers will throw away food if its “ugly.”
What You Can Do to Prevent Further Food Waste
The amount of food we waste is unbelievable, but there are so many things you can do today to start making a real difference. While waste goes beyond just individuals and business owners, we can all play a part in cleaning our plates.
How you can do your part to reduce food waste:
- Craft a more detailed shopping list by planning your meals in advance. This way you won’t overbuy produce.
- Your eyes may be bigger than your stomach, but your plate doesn’t have to be. Using smaller plates when eating or serving others can help you properly portion your food.
- Don’t be afraid of an emptier fridge. When you can’t see the food you buy, you’re more likely to forget about it. Keeping your fridge and pantry cleaner and pared down can help you use all of your ingredients.
- Keep track of the food you’re throwing away the most to cut down on trends. Add a dollar sign value so you can see the impact it has on your budget, too.
- Eating your leftovers doesn’t mean eating the same thing over and over. Plan one night a week to repurpose your leftovers in a “use it up” meal.
- Expiration dates are guidelines – not standard across the board. Trust your sense of smell, and your gut, before throwing items away.
- Educate those around you using the Environmental Protection Agency’s toolkit to reduce wasteful food management practices.
Want to learn more about what we can do with your food waste? Click here to check out a smarter and more sustainable solution for restaurant food waste!