J500 Media and the Environment

A Trashed Resource by mstinawood

The monthly food waste of a family of four.

    With grocery bills rising to unaffordable heights and food banks unable to provide for the growing demand, people are experiencing hunger at alarming rates. What’s more alarming is what can be found in landfills across America.

Studies have shown that Americans squander a quarter to a half of all the food we produce. Grocery stores throw out products with cosmetic flaws and minor damage. Restaurants discard what doesn’t get used or sold. In homes everything from wilted fruit to last weeks left over take-out find their way into the trash. Consider this: rotting food in landfills produces methane, a major contributor to greenhouse gases.

The Department of Agriculture estimates that in one year 96.4 billion pounds of the 356 billion pounds of edible food in the United States is never eaten. However, the problem doesn’t only belong to Americans. In England, the Brits toss out about a third of purchased food and in Sweden the average household throws away about a quarter of the food they buy. On the other hand, in parts of Africa a quarter or more of crops are lost or destroyed before harvest due to lack of technology and infrastructure, droughts, and insect infestation causing wide-spread starvation and food wars.

Everyone knows wasting food is a bad idea, but not much is done to address the issue. Food in America is cheap, relative to the rest of the world, and portions are increasingly over-sized. Of course, world hunger and global warming won’t be solved simply by eliminating food waste. But it could make a difference and wouldn’t take alot of effort or money. The Department of Agriculture estimated that recovering only 5 percent of wasted food could feed four million people a day; while recovering 25 percent could feed 20 million people. Now that’s food for thought.

Tina Wood

Photo Credit


5 Comments so far
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Great information here. Another thing that just boggles my mind about landfills is that food that in nature would decompose – like, say, banana peels – isn’t given the oxygen it needs to do so. So food that could go back to enriching soil and biodiversity sits in anaerobic conditions and takes up more space in landfills that we just don’t have.


Comment by alyv

I agree. If we as individuals, restaurants, cafeterias, utilized compost piles, the nutrients in our disposed natural foods could find its way back to enriching our deprived soils. Here’s an informative guide to creating your own compost pile: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/07/green-basics-compost.php

Comment by janiec52

Aly, landfills are totally mind boggling! I thought it was important to spread this information about food waste so we can become more mindful of our excess consumption. We can all save money if we only buy what can get used up before it goes bad. I think I’ll blog about composting at home next time.

Comment by christinaw09

I like that you touched on this, food waste is such a huge problem. One thing KU did last semester to reduce food waste was to stop providing trays in the dorm cafeterias. You can put a lot more food on trays, and most of the time it’s more than students can eat. Now students can only take away what they can carry with their hands. KU Dining has reduced food waste in the dorms more than they originally thought possible.

Comment by amandat09

It surprises me a lot that Brits throw away so much food! Not only are portions smaller there, but In Europe, refrigerators are smaller. As a result, people traditionally make more grocery store stops during a week. I think the amount of food we throw out is pretty astounding ad it has a lot to do with the convenience of making one grocery store run a week. In a place where you can walk to a little neighborhood grocery store you are more likely to buy what you need. Why do you guys think they waste just as much?

I am often shocked by the amount of food my room mates waste! I have plastic containers to fill with any extras from a meal, while they tend to toss out half a plate of food. It really astounds me– and I am using my verbs truly!

Finally, the tidbit on how food waste doesn’t decompose in dumps is really interesting to me. I always assumed that I was HELPING the landfill to go away by adding my banana peel. Christina– please do blog about composting at home!

Comment by brennad87

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