Americans waste 150,000 tons of food every day



Americans waste more than 150,000 tons of food every day, the equivalent of the amount of food harvested from 30 million acres of cropland, a recent study revealed.

On average, each person in the US dumps nearly 422 grams of food. Researchers estimated that around 353 million kilograms of pesticide, 816 million kilograms of nitrogen fertilizer and 15.9 trillion liters of water are used for cultivating the amount of wasted food.

The study explored the link between the quality of a person's diet, food waste, and its impact on the environment. Researchers found that the majority of food wasted were actually fruits and vegetables, rather than dairy and meat.

Fruits, vegetables, and mixed fruit and vegetable dishes accounted for 39 percent of food waste. Dairy, meat and mixed meat dishes, and grains and grain mixed dishes accounted for 17, 14 and 12 percent of waste respectively.

“Higher quality diets have greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are being wasted in greater quantities than other food,” explained co-author of the study Meredith Niles. “Eating healthy is important, and brings many benefits, but as we pursue these diets, we must think much more consciously about food waste.”

Researchers used data from 2007 to 2014 to study the dietary habits of people in the US. To investigate the impact of diet quality on food waste and environmental sustainability, they collected data on food intake and diet quality from the 2015 Healthy Eating Index and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Most existing research has looked at greenhouse gas emissions or land use and its link with different diets,” said Niles. “This study is the first to consider food waste as another important component of varying diet outcomes.”

Researchers also maintained that the findings also highlight the need to reduce household waste of packaged, but perishable goods like dairy. For these products, substantial waste may be generated by consumers’ limited understanding of date labels on food packages like “sell by,” “use by,” and “best before.” Consumers’ poor knowledge leads them to discard perfect food.

Researchers suggested taking a lesson from Europe and revising sell-by dates and labels for consistency, food planning and preparation education. Niles highlighted one of Europe's innovative efforts to reduce food waste.

“French grocer Intermarche’s 'inglorious fruits and vegetables' campaign promotes the cooking of 'the disfigured eggplant,' 'the ugly carrot,' and other healthy, but otherwise superficially damaged produce.”