WASTE NOT WANT NOT ! UA prof sez Americans are wasting $100 billion of edible food yearly! How many lbs. did you account for?
By pawing through people's garbage, professional dumpster diver Timothy W. Jones has concluded that Americans have no respect for the food they eat. Many subsist on convenience foods, and 14 percent of the food people buy winds up in the trash. Jones, a professor at the University of Arizona, contends that this dysfunctional relationship with food costs the U.S. economy $200 billion a year in waste and health care costs. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the annual cost of treating obesity in the United States is $100 billion. Another $100 billion worth of edible food is thrown out or unharvested. Jones is one of a handful of "contemporary archaeologists" worldwide who study present cultures by examining their trash.
"People look at (food) as a commodity or a product to be consumed and not
something that nourishes and sustains our bodies," he said.
A study by Jones and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2003 estimated
that more than 50 million tons of edible food are wasted in the United
States each year. The study looked at farming, retail establishments and
homes. It found that:
• Twelve percent of American crops, valued at $20 billion, go unharvested
due to difficulty in predicting demand.
• Retailers, including restaurants, throw away 35 million tons a year, valued at $30 billion.
• Households dump $43 billion worth of food a year, or about 14 percent of what they buy. That doesn't include plate scrapings. (snip) Jones said that a 25 percent reduction in obesity and food waste could pump $50 billion a year into the U.S. economy. Jones found that consumers believe they are healthier and more frugal than
they are. (snip) He found that American households throw away 1.28 pounds of food a day, not including scraps that go down the garbage disposer or into the compost pile. Vegetables make up 27 percent of the food trash. Packaged foods in their original containers and with valid expiration dates constituted 14 percent. Hispanic households are more frugal and throw away 25 percent less food than non-Hispanics, Jones found.
Jones says that people often buy fresh vegetables because they think they are eating healthfully. But many then go home, pop a frozen pizza in the oven and throw the vegetables out. So remember, "YOU BOUGHT IT YOU EAT IT. and Mom, push the food that's good while it's still good!
Fast-food restaurants throw out 10 percent of the food they prepare. Jones
found that small "mom and pop" restaurants and convenience stores had much
lower rates of waste than chain restaurants did.
from The Arizona Republic
Nations waste billions of dollars of food annually By Karen Abrams
While food prices increase, and food shortages plague developing countries,
producing countries lose a large supply of food annually to waste due to
transportation, cold storage and distribution problems, while in developed
nations like the UK, US, and Japan, consumers and organizations waste
billions of dollars in food each year due to over buying, poor planning,
busy schedules and a myriad of reasons explored below.
According to P K Mishra, secretary in the ministry’s department of
agriculture and co-operation in India, 72% of India’s fruit and vegetable
production goes to waste because of lack of proper retailing and adequate
storage capacity. In the US, a study, from the University of Arizona (UA)
in Tucson, indicates that a shocking forty to fifty per cent of all food
ready for harvest in the US never gets eaten.
Timothy Jones, an anthropologist at the UA Bureau of Applied Research in
Anthropology, has spent the last 10 years measuring food loss, including
the last eight under a grant from the US department of agriculture (USDA).
Jones started examining practices in farms and orchards, before going onto
food production, retail, consumption and waste disposal. What he found was
that not only is edible food discarded that could feed people who need it,
but the rate of loss, even partially corrected, could save US consumers and
manufacturers tens of billions of dollars each year. Jones says these
losses also can be framed in terms of environmental degradation and
The story gets worse, official surveys indicate that every year more than
350 billion pounds (160 billion kg) of edible food is available for human
consumption in the United States. Of that total, nearly 30% — including
fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, and grain are lost to waste by retailers,
restaurants, and consumers. Food production daily reports, “On average,
households waste 14 per cent of their food purchases. Fifteen per cent of
that includes products still within their expiration date but never opened.
According to a recent NY Times article, “Grocery stores discard products
because of spoilage or minor cosmetic blemishes. Restaurants throw away
what they don’t use. And consumers toss out everything from bananas that
have turned brown to last week’s Chinese leftovers. In 1997, in one of the
few studies of food waste, the Department of Agriculture estimated that two
years before, 96.4 billion pounds of the 356 billion pounds of edible food
in the United States was never eaten.
The story is no better in the UK, where, according to Tree Hugger Magazine,
“Britons waste about $20billion USD in food each year. About £6bn of the
wasted annual food budget is food that is bought but never touched -
including 13m unopened yoghurt pots, 5,500 chickens and 440,000 ready to
eat meals dumped in home rubbish bins each day. The rest is food prepared
or cooked for meals but never eaten because people have misjudged how much
was needed and don’t eat the leftovers”. The figures have been compiled by
Wrap, the waste and resources action programme, which previously made the
£8bn estimate and has warned we are throwing away a third of the food we
buy, enough to fill Wembley stadium with food waste eight times over in a
But the horror of this story is not only that while tons of food is wasted,
many in developing countries go hungry. Cutting food waste would also go a
long way toward reducing serious environmental problems. Jones estimates
that reducing food waste by half could reduce adverse environmental impacts
by 25 per cent through reduced landfill use, soil depletion and
applications of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Some say that,
”food biodegrades so where is the problem?”, according to a recent CNN
report, the problem, environmentalists say, is just that. When food rots,
it releases methane, a greenhouse gas which the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) says is 20 times more damaging to the environment
than carbon dioxide (CO2). The University of Arizona believes that if
Americans cut their food waste in half, it would reduce the country’s
environmental impact by 25 percent. The UK’s Waste & Resources Action
Program (WRAP) — which says the entire food supply chain in the UK
contributes 20 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions — believes that if
we stopped throwing out edible food, the impact it would have on CO2
emissions would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 5 cars off the road.
According to Britian’s food industry veteran and farmer Lord Christopher
Haskins of Skidby in a January 2008 speech delivered on the subject, “Are
the Malthusian chickens coming home to roost?”, referring of course to the
18th century cleric Reverend Malthus, who predicted that that there would
be a crisis in food supply as a result of swift population growth. His
prediction of a world food crisis was not far off however, as recently
emphasized by the UN at its summit on the global food crisis today. There,
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared world food production must rise by
50% by 2030. The crisis looms as food prices have risen 83% in the last
three years, according to the World Bank. It is also estimated that soaring
food prices could push as many as 100 million more people into hunger.
The world wide consensus today is that food-waste reduction must become a
priority for both developing and developed nations. The UN world food
program states, “total surplus of the U.S. alone could satisfy “every empty
stomach” in Africa , France’s leftovers could feed the Democratic Republic
of Congo; and Italy’s could feed Ethiopia’s undernourished. Countries like
Guyana would benefit from more efficient transportation, distribution and
cold storage systems. Now that the “grow more food” campaign is gaining in
popularity; priority and attention must be paid to support issues like food
processing, transportation and cold storage or else simply put; the “grow
more campaign” will create a horrible byproduct of “waste more food”, a
situation Guyana and other developing countries can ill afford in a time of
Experts in developed countries are optimistic and predict that food-waste
will be reduced over time, especially in light of rising food prices.
Consumers in the US are already making numerous lifestyle changes to combat
rising gas prices and many are now resorting to clipping coupons, cooking
more meals at home and reducing food expenditure in attempts to stretch
discretionary dollars. On a global scale, the obvious solution is to curb
food waste and sync supply with demand. Achieving this goal however is
easier said than done; a global challenge but a challenge that may run
counter to national imperatives as nations scurry to primarily secure their
own food security. The saga continues.
Another site, "Culinate" reports on "The food not eaten
Food waste: out of sight, out of mind"
By Jonathan Bloom
November 19, 2007
(snip) More than 40 percent of all food produced in America is not eaten, according to research
by former University of Arizona anthropologist Timothy Jones. That amounts
to more than 29 million tons of food waste each year, or enough to fill the
Rose Bowl every three days. Nationwide, food scraps make up 17 percent of
what we send to landfills.
This waste often goes undetected. “I think that without a doubt, when
people say that they don’t waste food, they believe it. There’s a huge
disconnect,” says William Rathje, a Stanford archaeologist who ran the
University of Arizona Garbage Project for years. “People don’t pay
attention to their food waste because it goes straight into the garbage or
disposal. It’s not like newspapers that stack up in the garage.”
We live in a culture of excess, and food is no exception. The average
American wastes more than half a pound of food per day. I’m no mathematical
whiz, but that would be a whole Quarter Pounder at lunch and dinner. When
you count what’s put down the disposal, 25 percent of what enters our homes
is not eaten, Rathje reports.
And as we can all attest, restaurants’ massive portions fill their large
plates, our stomachs, and then their dumpsters. Exceptions to this
squandering — like T.G.I. Friday’s “Right Portion, Right Price” menu — are
few. Every day, Jones calculates, American restaurants throw away more than
6,000 tons of food.
Why do we waste so much food?
There are consequences to our national habit of sending food to landfills.
American food waste has significant environmental, economic, and cultural
Wasting food squanders the time, energy, and resources — both money and oil
— used to produce that food. Increasingly, great amounts of fossil fuel are
used to fertilize, apply pesticides to, harvest, and process food. Still
more gas is spent transporting food from farm to processor, wholesaler to
restaurant, store to households, and finally to the landfill. That’s why
Michael Pollan writes in The Omnivore’s Dilemma that it takes more than one
calorie of fossil-fuel energy to yield one calorie of food.
Food rotting in landfills contributes to global warming. Landfills are
America’s primary source of methane emissions, and the second-largest
component of landfills are organic materials. When food decomposes in a
landfill, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more damaging than
carbon dioxide. Furthermore, wet food waste is the main threat to
groundwater or stream pollution in the event of a liner leak or large
Financially, wasted food costs America more than $100 billion annually,
says the University of Arizona’s Jones. (The USDA’s most recent estimate on
the cost of food waste — $96 billion — is 10 years old.) Closer to home,
the average four-person household wastes about $600 of food each year.
If you’re thinking “Not in my house,” consider what’s in your kitchen trash
and the back of your fridge, what you put down the disposal this week, and
what you’ve recently declined to take home from restaurants. The food items
we often waste stem from impulse purchases, recipes we intend to but never
make, and our failed best intentions. “People don’t match purchasing with
actual consumption,” says Jones. “They’re buying things they don’t eat
because they see themselves as healthy and environmentally friendly. By the
time the weekend comes around, you go to make that salad and it’s turned to
Cultural shifts hasten American food waste. Due to the obesity epidemic,
increased portions, and a diminished valuation of food, the “clean your
plate” ethic has evolved to “eat what you like.” This contributes to
elementary students wasting more than 25 percent of their lunches. “On the
days they’re serving broccoli or cauliflower, you look in the garbage and
it’s all green or white,” says Ethan Bergman, a professor in the Department
of Health and Human Performance at Central Washington University who
studies school nutrition.
Despite — or perhaps because of — the quality of Sloppy Joes, kids waste
about $2 billion of taxpayer dollars through the National School Lunch
Program. And the majority of cafeteria managers surveyed by the General
Accounting Office felt that packed lunches accounted for at least the same
amount of waste as school-provided lunches.
Kids’ actions communicate that, in their view, food isn’t that valuable. By
the numbers, it isn’t. Food spending represented just 10 percent of
disposable personal income in 2006, the lowest it’s been in the more than
70 years the USDA has tracked it. While rising oil prices and competition
from ethanol will increase food prices, income will likely rise as well.
If food is cheap, why is it bad to waste it? For starters, there’s the
aforementioned environmental impact. And food has worth beyond its monetary
value. That’s why Americans are seeking out local and organic food,
shopping at farmers’ markets, and reading books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma
and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Much food waste can be composted.
Given the prevalence of food waste, what can we do to keep it out of
landfills? The Environmental Protection Agency provides a useful resource
with its Food Waste Recovery Hierarchy. At the top of the list is “source
reduction,” or creating less excess. For people like you and me, that means
planning dinners, making specific shopping lists, and sticking to them. At
restaurants, it suggests ordering sensibly and taking home leftovers.
After source reduction, feeding hungry people through food recovery or
gleaning is the next best way to curb food waste. Food-recovery groups
rescue edible but unsellable food from supermarkets, restaurants, and
institutional kitchens. Gleaning, meanwhile, is the practice of picking
crops that a farmer plans to leave in the field. Whole fields are often
left unharvested because the crop’s market price won’t justify the expense.
Feeding animals comes next in the hierarchy, so don’t feel too bad about
slipping your scraps to Spot. On a larger level, hogs, cows, and other
livestock make great use of commercial food waste. Many independent farmers
are thrilled to reduce their feed costs while diverting food from
landfills. This practice used to be common for households, as food
scrap-filled “garbage” was collected separately from “trash” in many
locales. Philadelphia’s Division of Sanitation only stopped its food-scraps
collection program in 1995.
Fats and greases should be diverted to rendering plants that make soap. If
you’re brave enough, you can try this at home. (I put ten quarts of fat at a time
on CRAIGS LIST FREE 'Soapmakers ten quarts of hard fat" and meet interesting
people that way. Increasingly, used cooking oil is being used as a fuel source
for biodiesel vehicles, or “grease cars.”
Another waste-to-energy scheme is anaerobic digestion. While it’s not yet
on the EPA’s hierarchy, the process harnesses bacteria to convert food and
yard waste into biogas that can power vehicles or create electricity.
Americans have long used the process to create energy from animal manure,
but businesses on both coasts will soon use the process to transform
supermarket and municipal food waste into power.
At the very least, food should be composted. Many individuals, schools,
universities, hospitals, and municipalities have been doing so for years.
Composting costs roughly the same as regular waste diversion and, depending
on landfills’ tipping fees, can be even cheaper.
What comes at a high price, however, is wasting a resource like food by
sending it to landfills. When that happens, we squander the time, money,
resources, and effort that went into producing that item while ignoring the
Food loss may be somewhat unavoidable on Thanksgiving. But during the rest
of the year, Americans should just say no thanks to wasting food.
Jonathan Bloom is a journalist writing a book on wasted food in America.
When he’s not combing through the discount produce rack, he’s blogging on
the topic at Wasted Food.
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