Environmental Impact of Food Waste in the US

The way we eat, produce and waste food is the greatest threat to our planet, according to a new study published in the World Food Day by WWF, an entity . The food system is the largest consumer of natural resources and emitter of greenhouse gases. Despite using 34% of the land, consuming 69% of the water, and being the main cause of deforestation and loss of habitat, a third of all the food produced is not consumed. The food system is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, and of this 25%, one third comes from food waste.

The survey reveals that 40% of young people surveyed between 18 and 24 years old believe that the impact is not significant. Meanwhile, 80% of respondents say that more can be done to address the problem: 66% want governments to take stronger measures and 60% want companies to increase their efforts.

When a food is lost or wasted, all the resources that have been used to produce it (water, land, energy) are also wasted, at the same time as the calories and nutrients they contain are wasted. In this article we briefly review the environmental implications associated with the production of food and the amount of resources that are used in bucket to produce food that nobody takes advantage of; resources that, if managed responsibly, could be used to ensure the supply of food, which is seriously compromised by the limitation of natural resources.

The carbon footprint of food waste and waste, in general terms, is estimated at 3,300 million tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere: to have an idea, this means that food waste is the third GHG emitter, after from the USA and China. As for the water footprint, (ie, the consumption of surface and underground water resources), the volume of water used to produce food that will end up in the garbage is 250 km 3 , this is equivalent to the annual flow of the Volga River , or, three times the volume of Lake Geneva. Food produced in vain occupy almost 1.4 million hectares of land; this represents about 30% of the world’s agricultural land 1 .

Here is a summery : What Occurred by Food Waste

  • Each time food is wasted all the resources that went into producing, processing, packaging, and transporting that food is wasted too. This means huge amounts of chemicals, energy, fertilizer, land and 25% of all freshwater in the U.S. is used to produce food that is thrown away.
  • Additionally, most uneaten food rots in landfills where it accounts for almost 25% of U.S. methane emissions. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 21 times more harmful to the environment than CO2.
  • Getting food to our tables uses 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land,and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the United States.
  • Only about 3% of food scraps in the U.S. are composted.
  • About 2/3 of household waste is due to food spoilage from not being used in time, whereas the other 1/3 is caused by people cooking or serving too much.
  • 14 percent of greenhouse gases in the United States are associated with growing, manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of food.

Water Comparison

Freshwater is a global resource that is depleting whenever food is wasted. Have a look at these facts about water usage in the production of commonly bought— and in many cases wasted-food items.

  • It takes over 12,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Meanwhile, the largest percentage of food waste from the average American consists of meat products, and 33% ends up in a landfill.
  • The production of one glass of orange juice requires 45 gallons of water. 15% of wasted food from the average American consists of fruit.
  • Wheat consumes about 12 % of the global water use for crop production.
  • Americans waste about 18% of grains.

Global Food Waste

  • About one third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste.
  • Consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food, 222 million tons, as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Industrialized countries waste 670 million tonnes. Developing countries lose 630 million tonnes. Total lost or wasted globally: 2.3 billion tonnes.
  • The United States is the number one country in the world that wastes food. Close behind are Australia and Denmark, followed by Switzerland and Canada.