About Food Waste
Food waste is exactly what it sounds like: any food substance that is discarded. It can be raw or cooked, solid or liquid. It’s generated by the processing, handling, storage, sale, preparation, cooking and serving of foods; so it can happen anywhere along the supply chain, from the farm to the manufacturer to the retailer or restaurant, and in our homes or at work.
In 2010 alone, the FWRA estimates that around 60 million tons of food waste was generated in the U.S., of which nearly 40 million tons went to landfill. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more food reaches landfills than other type of municipal solid waste. It is estimated that 25-40 percent of the food that is grown, processed and transported in the United States will never be consumed.
The opportunity and the need to reduce food waste have never been greater. Reducing food waste in the U.S. can deliver significant environmental, social and economic benefits.
When food waste decomposes in a landfill, it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. In fact, landfills are responsible for one-third of all methane emissions in the United States. Keeping food waste out of landfills will result in reduced methane emissions. Also, growing food requires many resources, including water and energy. Wasted food is a waste of the resources used to grow it.
Eliminating food waste at the source is the preferred approach. But when food waste is generated, it can be recycled into compost or energy, which offer a number of environmental benefits. Compost improves soil health and structure, increases drought resistance, and reduces the need for other fertilizer. Also, food waste doesn’t create methane in a compost system the way it does in a landfill. Food waste can also be turned into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion, where the methane emissions from broken down food are captured to produce biogas, heat and energy.
Some of the food waste generated in the U.S. is actually not waste at all, as it is safe to eat and nutritious. In these instances, the food can be donated to food banks and other anti-hunger organizations, keeping it out of landfills while helping those in need.
Reducing the volume of food wasted in food manufacturing, retailing and foodservice operations means reducing the overall costs of these operations. Efficient, cost-effective companies are best positioned to deliver affordable products to consumers, grow, create jobs and support their communities,