Food waste is a massive problem globally, and you’ve probably heard about it plenty of times. It is especially prevalent in the US, who leads the world in food waste annually.
There are plenty of reasons why we need to fight food waste. For one, the gasses it releases can be harmful to the environment, a major contributor to climate change. Plus, there are thousands of Americans starving right now who could really use that food. And think of all of the labor, time, and money that is wasted when we don’t eat the food we buy.
If so many Americans could use this food, why do we waste so much of it? Well, that comes down to two factors: personal and corporate practices. While we as a whole are responsible for food waste, the majority of it actually comes from companies and businesses that handle food.
But don’t despair just yet. Let’s take a look at the facts of food waste, why it happens, and what we can do about it here in the US.
80 billion pounds of food are thrown away each year in the US— this is enough food to fill 1,000 Empire State Buildings, and is equal to about 161 billion dollars worth of food. Nearly 40% of the food we produce never gets eaten. Imagine leaving the grocery store with five bags, and just dropping two of them in the parking lot and walking away— that’s how much food we waste. In fact, there is so much food waste that it takes up the most space in our landfills. So why do we throw away this much food? Well, here’s a few reasons:
Combatting food waste is something that businesses and consumers need to work together to do. But there are a few things you can do at home to help lessen food waste.
For one, learn the difference between “best by” or “sell by” and “expires on.” A lot of food that is past its sell-by date is still perfectly edible. A sell-by date is simply the last day that a store thinks its product will be in peak condition for sale. However, the real expiration date usually isn’t until at least a week after that.
Also, be open to buying the less “pretty” produce— this might encourage businesses to stock more of the things that might otherwise have been thrown away.
You could also start a compost pile for all your scraps and leftovers. If you have a garden, this is a great and cheap way to fertilize your plants. Plus, it provides the food with a good space to decompose instead of being thrown in a suffocating landfill.
Lastly, you can freeze food that you may not eat right away. This will allow it to stay good longer, and lessen the chances of it ending up in the trash.
If we really want to address food waste and work towards a sustainable future, businesses that handle food need to make a lot of changes. Here are a few of them:
Clearly, food waste is a big issue, and if it’s not addressed soon, it could have terrible consequences. But if we all work together, we can combat food waste, redistribute food to those in need, and work towards a more sustainable future.