August 23, 2012
From Farm To Fork To Landfill: Americans Waste Too Much Food
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Go to your refrigerator. Now take almost half the food out and throw it in the trash. That´s what the typical American does, wasting up to 40 percent of the nation´s food supply, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The nonprofit and nonpartisan environmental advocacy group said that $165 billion of food products go uneaten every year, which equals approximately $2,275 per household.
The report also assessed the amount of food lost in the food supply chain. Some food, like carrots that are deemed “too curvy”, are scrapped before they even reach the market because they don´t meet quality or aesthetic standards. It should be noted that these quality control related wastes often get downgraded and sold off to animal feed of other industries.
"As a country, we're essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path. That's money and precious resources down the drain," Dana Gunders, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council's food and agriculture program told Reuters.
According to the report, seafood, fruits, and vegetables are wasted the most, over 50 percent of the time. Milk and ℠meat´ were consumed at the highest rate, about 20 percent of the total amount produced.
The amount of American food waste is staggering by itself, but seems especially foolish when placed in the context of this year´s severe drought and subsequent higher food prices.
The amount of squandered food has another side effect–the occupation of landfill space. Since the 1970s, food garbage being dumped into landfills has jumped 50 percent, the report said. Currently, the average American trashes 10 times as much food as people living in Southeast Asia.
In light of all the energy and resources that go into producing food that will ultimately go uneaten; the Natural Resources Defense Council report looked to the European Union, which has instituted an aggressive anti-waste policy.
In January, the European Parliament passed a resolution to decrease food waste by 50 percent by 2020. The EU also designated 2014 as the "European year against food waste."
The United Kingdom has also stepped up their campaign against waste. The country started a public awareness campaign called "Love Food Hate Waste" in 2007 to work with leading food retailers, chefs, and help them reduce waste in their own operations, as well as up and down the supply chain.
The report also includes several actions that can not only reduce waste; they can also improve resource productivity. Standardizing expiration dates, initiating state and local food waste prevention campaigns, and ℠waste´ audits by private companies would be significant steps toward achieving a more efficient consumption of the food supply.
A “collective approach by decision-makers at every level in the supply chain” along with policymakers at every level of government could have a major effect of waste reduction without a massive expenditure of time and capital, the report suggested.
The study also suggested that Americans should learn how long food can last and to that scarred or otherwise imperfect produce should still be bought and eaten. The average consumer should also save and eat leftovers too, researchers said.