U.S. Food Waste Costs Billions Every Year
Each day Americans waste enough food to fill up the Rose Bowl stadium. According to a report released by National Resources Defense Council, food waste in America costs $165 billion annually, as roughly 40% of food goes to waste. This is a major problem, considering 15% of the U.S. population is considered “food insecure.”
Food waste has overtaken paper as the biggest contributor to land fills. Between 1974 and 2003, food waste has increased by 50%. While consumers are to blame for wasting the most food, money is lost at each step of the food production cycle.
Source: Sustainable Food Waste Symposium, 2012Farmers waste food by not harvesting crops. Cosmetic defects force farmers to throw away harvested crops. Distributors then often reject food deliveries from farmers. Lastly, consumers often throw away food in homes and apartments across America. Dana Gunder, the author of the NRDC’s study said,
“We’re essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path. That’s money and precious resources down the drain.”
Not just a U.S. problem, the UN Food and Agriculture commission estimates that 1.3 billion tons of food goes to waste every year.
What Can Be Done?
Technology and government are at the forefront of combatting the food waste problem. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers are developing a device that detects a fruit’s ripeness. These small sensors would give grocers a better time-table on when to market certain fruits for sale.
Another effort is being led by the company Zero Percent, which is developing an app that restaurants would use to alert soup kitchens whenever there is excess food.
Consumers and food regulators can play a big part in reducing waste by clearing up the “date labeling” packages that are placed on foods. Often times, the date label signifies the date at which the food will no longer be top quality, not when it is actually bad.
Some states such as Oregon and Massachusetts are taking steps to reduce food waste in landfills. According to Massachusetts Environmental Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell, the goal for states should be to first reduce landfill waste, and then redirect that waste towards renewable energy.