A new study by The Natural Resources Defense Council (www.nrdc.org) which identifies food loss at every stage of the food supply chain shows that 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten (up 50% from statistics in the 1970s) and winds up rotting in landfills, which accounts for 25% of U.S. methane emissions. Organic food waste represents the largest component of solid waste reaching landfills each year. This amount of food waste translates into strain on 10% of the U.S. energy budget, 50% of U.S. land and 80% of all freshwater consumed in the U.S which is all used in food production. The report also shows that the amount of food saved by reducing waste even by only 15% would feed over 25 million Americans per year.

 Food is lost on farms, during processing/distribution, in retail environments and in households for a variety of reasons. At the farm level, food can be wasted due to unharvested produce caused by a variety of complications including food safety scares and labor shortages. In processing/distribution, food is often wasted because of overproduction, packaging damage, technical malfunctions and when it does not meet quality or appearance requirements. Most food wasted in retail environments is unsold perishables and ready-made foods, products that have past their “sell by” dates and damaged goods. In restaurants, the most common cause of food waste is large portions that are left uneaten. Typically 17% of restaurant meals are left unfinished, with 55% of those leftovers are not taken home. In terms of the average American household, families throw out around 25% of the food they purchase. The primary causing of this waste are overbuying food that spoils before it can be used and preparing too much at meals from which the leftovers are never eaten.

The report also offers an abundance of solutions for reducing the amount of food wasted, ranging from solutions that can be adopted by businesses, the government, and consumers alike, as well as suggestions for minimizing waste produced at the farm, processing/distribution, retail and consumer levels.