Food Waste Matters by David Golden

Waste is a tragic human invention. We have created this concept of “away,” as if when garbage is thrown “away” in the trash, it disappears entirely. We pay no attention to the rising number of landfills and incinerators needed to dispense of our waste. More so than ever, wealth and excess have led to the demand for “convenient” disposable products, many of which we use daily. Time, labor and resources have gone into the production of these single-use items, and disgracefully, unused food is tossed out with the garbage rather than being recognized as the resource that it is.

These habits make the United States the most wasteful country in the world, skyrocketing from 2.7 pounds of trash per person per day in 1960, to 4.3 pounds today.1,2 In the past several decades recycling has valiantly addressed this problem, but food waste remains egregiously ignored.

Over 40% of food produced in the United States is never eaten. e Environmental Protection Agency recently stated that food waste and loss is the “largest single component of disposed U.S. municipal solid waste.”3 Immense amounts of time, labor, and energy go in to the production, transportation, and distribution of that food.4 ose resources, as well as the associated monies, are squandered if the food is not consumed. is wastefulness also robs families of precious resources; according to the EPA, the average family of four will throw away about $1,500.00 worth of food every year!5

It is not just external resources that are wasted either; food is rich with the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that it took from its environment to grow. We are throwing those vital materials into land lls, instead of composting them back into the land to be reused.

Food waste is also, perhaps surprisingly, a large contributor to climate change. e EPA estimates that wasted food “accounts for a signi cant portion of U.S. methane emissions” contributing to climate change.6 When food or other organic materials decompose in an anaerobic environment such as a land ll, they emit methane gas, a green house gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

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