Ask most people if they want to save more than $600 a year and the answer is clearly “Yes.” Then, ask if they wind up throwing out a lot of leftovers, expired cans or produce that has gone bad. The fact is that American households throw out an average of $640 worth of food annually. To change that, the federal government is setting a goal and encouraging Americans to slash 50 percent of food waste that is going to landfills and not used to feed people.
According to the government, Americans throw away more than 130 billion pounds of food – or 31 percent of the national food supply – every year. As U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack phrased it, “It’s enough to fill the Sears Tower [technically now the Willis Tower] 44 times.”
To change that unconscionable and very costly waste, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency — along with several private sector and charitable partners — announced the creation of the first national target level for food waste on Wednesday. Visick commented that they are basically challenging everyone to cut food waste in half by 2030.
Regardless of whether foods have no added sugars or GMOs, are organic or gluten free, and other food topics, a lot of food is being thrown away. Here are some of the ways a lot of that food winds up in landfills:
- According to an American Chemistry Council survey of 1,000 adults, 76 percent throw away leftovers at least monthly.
- Consumers let food wilt or go bad in refrigerators and toss them; however, even though items may have passed their sell-by dates, some are still perfectly safe to consume and yet are tossed.
- Some will only eat perfect looking produce and discard items that are off color or bruised in one spot.
- Farms will not harvest produce that it not up to cosmetic standards, so it is discarded.
- Produce that is ripe but will not stay fresh enough to be shipped elsewhere is sometimes tossed.
While everyone agrees that such waste does not make sense while people are hungry in other areas of the U.S., the critical thing is improving shopping for groceries and promotion of ways to minimize food waste. The issue not jut about nourishment, it is about food as an economic issue.
By some estimates, food waste starts on the farm and spreads into waste of the labor and supplies needed to transport and sell the food. By some estimates, wasted food accounts for approximately 2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 35 percent of freshwater consumption, 31 percent of cropland and 30 percent of fertilizers used, according to data published in the journal PLOS earlier this month.
Besides the federal government seeking to raise awareness and reduce food waste 50 percent, some local jurisdictions are adopting measure to minimize food waste to feed people and not the area’s landfills. For example, Seattle fines homeowners for not sorts their garbage to keep food out of trashcans. Offenders get a bright red tag posted on a garbage bin to let any passersby know that the barrel’s owners were violating the rules. This July, a new feature was added to Seattle’s fine; a new provision includes fines for using too much recyclable materials.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
NPR: It’s Time To Get Serious About Reducing Food Waste, Feds Say
TIME: U.S. Aims to Cut Food Waste in Half by 2030
USA Today: Government agencies set goal to cut food waste in half by 2030
USA Today: U.S. households trash $640 in food a year
NPR: Tossing Out Food In The Trash? In Seattle, You’ll Be Fined For That