- In its most recent report, the U.S. Agriculture Department estimated that 133 billion pounds of food were lost at the retail and consumer levels in 2010, almost one-third of the nation’s food supply. That's 429 pounds of food per American, including 82 pounds of dairy, 81 pounds of vegetables, 59 pounds of fruit and 49 pounds of meat, poultry and fish.
- The USDA measures food loss by weight, which includes cooking loss and natural shrinkage, and discarded food may be salvaged for other purposes such as animal feed. But even if the figure were cut in half, the Wall Street Journal reported, "an unconscionable amount of food ends up in the garbage."
- The Natural Resources Defense Council says several factors lead to consumer waste, including overpurchasing and confusion over expiration dates. "We buy huge portions at the store and we bring them back in a big car to a big refrigerator, and we’re not eating it all," said Dana Gunders. Edible food is discarded prematurely largely because shoppers misunderstand the purpose of sell-by or use-by dates stamped on food labels.
There are many reasons food waste is a problem. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food waste accounts for more than 30 million tons of municipal solid waste, or about 18% of landfill waste.
Energy, water and chemicals that were used to grow the food are also wasted. Then, as it rots in landfills, food waste produces methane. Researchers at the Laboratory of Biological Modeling, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, have found that food waste accounts for more than 25% of total freshwater consumption.
Additionally, in 2012, 49 million people were "food insecure," meaning that at times during the year, they didn’t have enough to eat. Good food that is not discarded could help feed the hungry.
Curbing waste starts with awareness in every kitchen and grocery store, as well as in the community. Many municipalities are starting composting programs to urge residents to be more conscious of food waste disposal.