When we think about food waste, our thoughts often ends at the moment when we realize that a given produce has been thrown away. We tend to forget about all other derivatives that are also thrown away at the same moment. A few weeks ago I posted an entry about how food waste also leads to land misuse or mismanagement. Today I would like to reveal results from a study that I found extremely interesting.
“The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact” was carried out by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The study gives you a very important piece of information, i.e. food waste leads to wastage of all the energy that was put into the production of food. According to the research “in 1974 approximately 900 kcal per person per day was wasted whereas in 2003 Americans wasted, 1400 kcal per person per day or, 150 trillion kcal per year.” The rise of the energy input is directly correlated to the annual per capita rise in municipal solid food waste. “Municipal solid food waste accounts for approx. 30% of the total wasted food energy assuming that solid food from the US diet has an energy density of 1.9 kcal/g”. Figures show that food waste has grown from 30% in 1974 to over 40% in recent years, and is still growing. We also need to remember that serving portions still continue to grow. I will post a blog entry about serving portions in today’s world later.
Agriculture in the US uses around 70% of the freshwater supply. Taking into account that 40% of all food is wasted it means that around 30% of all freshwater goes to waste. In a book “How sustainable agriculture can address the environmental and human harms of industrial agriculture.” written by Horrigan L., Lawrence R.S. and Walker P. we get the information that an average farm requires 3 kcal of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 kcal of food before counting in energy required for transportation and processing. It means that food waste accounts for around 300 million barrels of oil per year, which represents approx. 4% of total US oil consumption.
I believe that it is very important to understand the immense negative impacts of the food waste problem. To be aware that food waste exist is one thing, but to know about all of its implications and impacts on the society and the environment is another, and more important one. If people don’t understand the problem the idea might not stick with them and the message won’t spread. After all, the ones that know the most can explain a given issue better.
Posted by Piotr Wielezynski