Food Waste: The Growing Financial and Environmental Impact


One solution is to eliminate the enormous amount of food waste worldwide. Some reports estimate that between 30 and 50 percent of all the food that's produced is wasted before ever reaching the table. Food waste is a huge problem globally, but the reasons differ widely between countries and regions. Generally food waste in high-income countries is dominated by consumer waste, whereas developing countries have higher losses at the harvest and processing stages due to increased spoilage, storage and poor management.

Americans are collectively spending $ 165 billion each year by wasting food. On average, we waste about 450 pounds per person each year! According to a recent report from Natural Resources Defense Council, the average family of four wastes 25 percent of their purchased food. That's equivalent to about $ 1,750 spent every year on food that ends up in the trash.

The USDA estimating that supermarkets toss out $ 15 billion worth of unsold fruits and vegetables annually. An estimated 40 percent of fruit and vegetables are rejected even before they reach the shops, mostly because they do not meet the supermarkets' "cosmetic" standards. Stores would rather fill their shelves and throw out the remainder than look empty, which costs the consumer. Waste is seen as the cost of doing business in the entire food service industry.

Labels on food products can also be confusing and lead to unnecessary food waste. Many consumers read an item's sell-by date as an indicator of when the food will spoil. The "Sell By Date" on a product is the items expiration date, the end of its shelf life at the store. This is the last date stores ideally are to display the product for sale. Use-by dates aren't the same as expiration dates, and food is usually safe to eat far beyond the use-by date on the label. Those dates aren't standardized, and often food companies will use these dates to only estimate when the product will stop tasting quite as fresh. The expiration dates are strictly "advisory" in nature and not the items real shelf life. Manufacturers determine how to set dates, what kind of dates they will use, and what those date means. The system is not standardized across the marketplace.

The impact of food waste is not just financial. Environmentally, food waste leads to the greater use of fuel for transportation, land for growing, water for irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides. Food waste makes up the largest portion of solid trash in landfills, which is the greatest source of methane emissions. Methane is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas and one of the most harmful greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change. The outrageous amount of food going to landfills is a significant contributor to global warming. When we're wasting food, it's not just hitting our pocketbook, it's also the environmental cost that's impacted. Thirty to fifty percent is a huge amount to waste, especially when food prices are rising and hunger is a worldwide issue.

Source by Gregory Shepard


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