Americans throw away a lot of food. In fact, recent reports show we waste almost as much food as we consume. But what are real details and implications of our wasteful food consumption habits?
To begin, it's important to understand why we waste food in the first place. Safety is obviously the most important concern, and fear of becoming sick is one of the main reasons we throw food away. We also like our food to be fresh, so anything that doesn't resemble a "blemish free" option is often discarded. Other reasons we discard food are cultural or simply a lack of knowledge.
Consider these important facts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:
- * Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted.
- * Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
- * Industrialized and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tons.
- * Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
- * Global quantitative food losses and waste per year are roughly 30% for cereals, 40-50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 35% for fish.
- * Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).
- * The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tons in 2009/2010).
- * Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.
How we dispose of food waste also has effects that impact us globally, environmentally, economically, and more. When we fill up our landfills with carbon food waste, it decomposes and sends methane gas into the atmosphere. By using a food waste disposal system, restaurants and foodservice operations can benefit in a variety of ways that go well beyond reducing environmental impact.
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