How large is the problem of food waste in the United States?


Is food waste turning our planet into an environmental wasteland? When we think of food waste in the United States, many of us think of the items we take for ourselves, fail to eat and ultimately throw away. To prevent these actions, we institute something like the “clean-plate club” or we take our food on smaller plates to prevent over-portioning. But what about total food waste in the United States overall?

Even though the food thrown away after mealtime is an example of food waste, it’s actually a rather small portion of a much greater epidemic. The larger problem of waste actually stems from the resources we use to create our food, and it includes the food that is wasted in transportation as well as the product that is wasted on the retail shelf due to package damage or spoilage. All of these incidents contribute to food waste and ultimately have a negative impact on our environment. And the problem is much larger than you may realize.

Understanding the problem

According to statistics from the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) report: “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill,” bringing food from the farm to the forks of people across the country accounts for about 10 percent of the nation’s energy budget, 50 percent of the nation’s land and 80 percent of the nation’s water.

However, according to that same report, 40 percent of the food we grow and cultivate is wasted. That waste equates to $165 billion in goods each year. Additionally, uneaten food remains the single largest component of “municipal solid waste” in U.S. landfills, where its rotting leads to methane emissions and 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gas equivalent emissions each year. In fact, food waste actually accounts for twice the impact to global warming as all the world’s air traffic.

Reducing food waste in the United States starts with all of us

The environmental impact of food waste is one of the great challenges we face today, particularly in our industry. As a result, it will be a reoccurring topic in this blog. Future blogs will take a closer look at new technologies, safer shipping ideas and conservation practices we can all use to minimize waste as much as possible. Solving the food waste challenge depends on each of us, and those little choices we make every single day can have a big impact.

To learn more about how reusables create more efficient supply chains, click here.

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