Americans toss out as much as 40% of their food, study says

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Americans are throwing out nearly every other bite of food, wasting up to 40% of the country’s supply each year – a mass of uneaten provisions worth $165 billion, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

An average family of four squanders $2,275 in food each year, or 20 pounds per person per month, according to the nonprofit and nonpartisan environmental advocacy group.

Food waste is the largest single portion of solid waste cramming American landfills. Since the 1970s, the amount of uneaten fare that is dumped has jumped 50%. The average American trashes 10 times as much food as a consumer in Southeast Asia, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenDieting/Food/NutritionMarriage & FamilyPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending

8 Comments
Posted August 22, 2012 at 11:11 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Karen B. wrote:

For those who want to find a way to put leftovers to good use and not just throw them out, I can recommend goats.  They eat pretty much anything, and their milk and meat are rather nice!  No problem with what to do with leftovers here in Africa.  If the neighbors’ kids don’t want my leftovers, the goats will always eat them!  wink

August 22, 12:34 pm | [comment link]
2. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

No. 1,
We had a goat when I was little. He ate my cloth diapers off the clothes line once.

August 22, 1:20 pm | [comment link]
3. Terry Tee wrote:

The quantity of American food served up is the stuff of lore over here in Europe.  Although as more and more of our restaurants turn to ‘all you can eat’ to lure customers in it seems to me that we will soon be catching up.  Diabetes, anyone?

August 22, 7:21 pm | [comment link]
4. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

I think you are already there. I saw some gargantuan meals served when I was living in England with gargantuan British rumps to match.

August 22, 7:29 pm | [comment link]
5. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

And I wonder how much of that is state mandated food waste. I know at the local retirement home and public schools here, if they prepare too much food for residents or students, they are required by law to dispose of it. It’s called the “no leftover” law.

August 22, 7:31 pm | [comment link]
6. MichaelA wrote:

#5, good point.  We have had similar laws here in Sydney, but there is one bright spot - a number of groups collect left over food from businesses in the city in the evening and take it out to the homeless shelters.  I think by law the food has to be packaged in individual take-away containers, but many cafes and restaurants seem happy to do this, and volunteers come around at about 5pm to pick them up and take them out to the charities.  I have heard that some internal corporate kitchens also take part.

August 22, 8:50 pm | [comment link]
7. Teatime2 wrote:

#6—That’s illegal here, due to health and lawsuit concerns, they say. It has to be thrown away. I wouldn’t call it “state-mandated food waste”—the onus is on the institutions to plan and prepare better so they don’t have to throw a lot away.

I found out by accident, though, that sometimes if you’re at a deli or supermarket near closing time, they’ll either give or sell you prepared food at a big discount. We went to a supermarket to buy some fried chicken a couple of weeks ago because it was too hot to cook. I had no idea that the deli section closed early but one of the employees was still there. I asked him if there was any fried chicken left and he said there was, and he’d even throw in some extra pieces for free. He returned with a huge bag of fried chicken and only charged me for the 8-piece pack. smile

At the household level, we throw out very little. I cook from scratch and use just about everything in some manner. I have a kitchen compost bin for the used tea and coffee grounds and vegetable scraps and my dogs are happy to take care of the meat trimmings and beef bones. I use chicken bones or the carcass to make soup. I can’t afford to waste food!

I used to have the problem of fresh produce going bad rather quickly but I learned that it’s often worth the extra money to buy organic produce. It lasts much longer, especially the lettuces.  If it’s crazy-expensive, I won’t buy it but it’s often good value in season or on sale. I got a big bag of very ripe organic tomatoes for $1 once. I made a batch of pasta sauce with them. smile

August 23, 12:04 am | [comment link]
8. John Boyland wrote:

#7, yes, for those without goats (or chickens!), a compost bin can be very useful.  Most of our food waste is peelings/clippings/spoilage of fruits/vegetables which goes straight to the compost bin.  We add new stuff to the top, and occasionally pull compost out of the bottom.

August 23, 9:25 am | [comment link]
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