The equivalent of $165bn of uneaten food is discarded each year by Americans in a time of ever-increasing food prices and drought conditions, the NRDC said.
Project scientist at the NRDC Sana Gunders said that US consumers throw away every other piece of food they buy, which is money and resources “down the drain”.
Gunders added: “With the price of food continuing to grow, and drought jeopardising farmers nationwide, now is the time to embrace all the tremendous untapped opportunities to get more out of our food system. We can do better.”
The report, called ‘Wasted: How America Is Losing Up To 40% of its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill’, analysed the latest case studies and government data on the causes and extent of food losses at all levels of the US food supply chain. The report also provided examples and recommendations for reducing the amount of waste.
Other key findings in the report were that an average American family of four ends up throwing up to $2,275 of food away each year. Also, food waste in the US is the highest component of solid waste in US landfills and a 15% reduction would save enough food to feed 25m people a year. Food wastage has also increased by 50% since the 1970s.
Losses in the food system, the report discovered, were complex. However, notable problem areas started at the retail level with grocery stores and other sellers losing as much as $15bn in unsold fruits and vegetables each year — almost half of nationwide supply was going uneaten each year. Fresh fruit and vegetables were highlighted as the worst category, losing more than seafood, grains, meat and dairy.To avoid this, the report suggested retailers stopped over-stocking produce in displays.
Consumers, however, were also highlighted as a major contributor to food problems, as the majority of losses occurred in restaurants and domestic kitchens. A big contributor to this was the large portions being served as well as uneaten leftovers. Also highlighted by the report was the increase in portion sizes, which were often two to eight times larger than recommended by the government.
Wasting food, the report said, is also a waste of natural resources such as water and farmland, which are necessary to grow, transport and store food. Half of all land in the US, the report highlighted, is used for agriculture and 25% of all freshwater used in the country along with 4% of oil also goes into food production. Uneaten food also accounts for more than 23% of all methane emissions in the US.
The US is looking towards Europe and the UK as examples of how to manage food waste, said Gunders: “No matter how sustainably our food is farmed, if it’s not being eaten, it is not a good use of resources.”