Tossed Out-Food Waste in America
On 18 April 2018, Oliver Milman, an online journalist, in his article published in the Guardian, wrote that Americans waste up to 150,000 tons of food each day. The figures of food wastage in the U.S are alarming considering that there are families who are considered poor; not to afford a daily meal (Bloom, 2015). These statistics seem closely matched to the video report by Netnews titled ‘Tossed Out: Food Waste in America’. Subsequently, a variety of questions such as how much food Americans waste each year?; What are the general attitudes about food, and what are some of the sources of food waste?; How is food waste harmful financially and environmentally?, have featured in a number of financial as well as environmental discussions countrywide. However, these questions remain vaguely comprehended by the major players who contribute to food wastage, a factor that forms the thesis of this review.
The term ‘food waste’ has been discussed in mainstream media platforms as well as institutional forums particularly in schools. However, it remains a vaguely understood phenomenon as indicated in the “Tossed Out: Food Waste in America” video clip. According to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), food waste is defined as ‘any solid or liquid food substance, either raw or cooked, that is discarded intentionally due to a consumer’s, producers’, or retailers’ own reasons. When analyzing issues regarding food waste, it becomes evident that some edible substances are discarded yet they remain healthy for consumption. In regards to the aforementioned definition presented by FWRA, Bloom (2015) indicates that about 40% of all the food produced in the United States goes uneaten. Additionally, the household sector throws away an estimated 25% of the food it buys. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, typically an average household in America discards approximately 40% of fresh fish, 23% of eggs, and 20% of milk bought from the retailers.
The most significant reason as to why the U.S food waste figure continues to escalate is highly dependent on the attitude producers, retailers, and consumers have towards food consumption. Firstly, it is evident that the household sector is a major contributor to food wastage in the U.S. As indicated by Bloom (2015), the household sector spends about 10% of its income on food thus there is a prevailing perception of food as less of a resource. Subsequently, this attitude contributes to high wastage. It is estimated that two-thirds of the U.S households waste food due to spoilage due to poor cooking schedules influenced by a culture of ordering food deliveries from eateries (Gunders, 2017). The remaining one-third of American households contributes to food wastage by serving an excess of foods, which ends up thrown away.
Food wastage is expensive considering the amount spent on the food items that end up in the landfills as well as the resources employed to safely dispose of the bio-garbage. From the data collected in the study by Gunders (2017), it is estimated that the total cost of food that goes to waste in the U.S is roughly $165 billion per year. Additionally, of the indicated amount, about $40 billion is estimated to be from households. However, these are not the only costs that are directly related to food wastage in the U.S. According to Gunders (2017), amounts of up to $750 million are used annually to dispose of discarded food safely. However, considering the negative global warming effects brought by methane gas emissions particularly from the 33 million tons of food waste dumped in landfill yearly, much more money is expected to be used over the coming future.
Supermarkets have a habit of overstocking with an aim of improving sales as well as avoiding the chances of running short of supplies during high sales times. Over a period, the unsold produce is thrown out to make room for fresh produce. The discarded produce, which is good for human consumption, end ups up in garbage trucks and later in landfills. The constant capital used in restocking the shelves with food items goes to waste considering that what is being thrown away is edible and healthy for consumption. As indicated in Gunders’s study (2017), about 1.2 billion U.S. dollars are spent on groceries restocking by supermarkets across America yet the produce discarded is healthy for consumption. The aesthetic standards held by retailers is thatfarmers are forced to sell only the produces that is considered up to sale standards. The remaining ‘blemished’ but healthy harvest is later thrown away as compost or fed to animals, which may be a viable way of food waste disposal, but it remains inefficient. When taking to account the sale of what retailers are willing to buy, it becomes evident that farmers may not be getting a good return on investment.
Food waste has a detrimental impact on the environment in a variety of ways. As presented by Gunders (2017), every time food is wasted other resources such as production, processing, packaging, as well as transportation also go to waste. A significant amount of resources such as chemicals in the form of fertilizers, land, and about 25% of all freshwater in the country that is used to produce food that goes to waste is also misused thus causing a significant environmental impact in the process (Bloom, 2015). Additionally, most of the discarded foods are dumped in landfills where decomposition produces methane gas. As a greenhouse gas, methane is 21 times more harmful than CO2 to the environment. Currently, the waste food landfills produce about 25% of all the methane gas in the country.
Efficient Waste Food Disposal
As mentioned earlier, it is evident that though most of the U.S public is aware of food waste issues, the culture of resource employment remains ineffective. Currently, there are two principal methods of making sure wasted food is employed to good use. Firstly, the best way to repurpose waste food is through turning it into compost. Mixing compost material with food waste produces high-quality farming manure thus aiding in increasing agricultural productivity. Secondly, food waste production of methane gas can be used to produce electric energy for households.
Efforts to Reduce Food Waste
Currently, different organizations are taking part in reducing the amount of food that goes to waste in varied ways. Firstly, restaurants and supermarkets are currently working to store soon to be discarded food products for redistribution through an effort called food recover. Famers are also working with different organizations that aid in taking away produce that has not been sold to retailers or harvested from the fields through a process called gleaning.
In summary, the United States has growing issues in regards to food wastage. The video “Tossed Out: Food Waste in America” is a genuine revelation towards issues regarding food wastage. As indicated in the video, discarded waste foods have a negative financial and environmental impact. Nonetheless, the video clip offers not only a profound comprehension of all sources of food waste but ways to reduce it in the long-term. Throughout the study, it can be argued that the household, as well as the corporate sector towards food, is the root of all issues regarding food waste and until this attitude is changed, America will continue to have healthy edible foods in trashcans and landfills.
Bloom, J. (2015). American wasteland: How America throws away nearly half of its food. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
Gunders, D. (2017). Waste-free kitchen handbook: Guide to eating well and saving money by wasting less food. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Milman, O. (2018). Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day – equal to a pound per person. The Guardian online News website retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/18/americans-waste-food-fruit-vegetables-study
YouTube (2018). Tossed Out: Food Waste in America. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLRjb6LdUFM