How Food Waste Is Harming Our Planet


food waste in AmericaRob Greenfield isn’t the sort of person you’d expect to see head-down, feet-up in the dumpster. He’s entirely literate, for one. He’s an athlete, a vegetarian and webmaster who lives in San Diego. But if you lived in one of America’s iconic big cities during summer 2014, you might have spied him rooting about in a downtown dumpster, snacking on deformed apples and chip crumbles just to prove a point: There’s enough food for everyone, guys!

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an international environmental advocacy group, America wastes 40 percent of its food. More than half of that food is wasted at “final consumption” – at restaurant buffets, in moldy leftovers, at the scrape, scrape, scrape of a dinner plate. That’s about $165 billion sucked down the garbage disposal every year.

Now, this might trouble you. So much, in fact, that you might get an app like Fridge Pal, which helps you plan meals based on your foods nearing their expiration dates, or Home Compost, available on Android, which teaches you what food scraps are best for backyard composting.This is evidence that technology has the potential to help, not hurt, our mission to live greener, despite some beliefs.

Good for you! But imagine you live in Kenya, which also wastes about 40 percent of its food, but there, waste occurs before the plate. Lydia Omuko, a regional expert in Africa environmentalism, says that European Cosmetic Standards, made-up aesthetic rules for picture-perfect produce, account for up to 30 percent of African food waste.

Now, there are many places worldwide where the soil is moist and the workers are willing – but then what? If you grow three million bananas, how do you ship them from southern India to Canada? Simply put, you don’t, and poor subsistence farmers pay the price. India is the world’s largest banana producer, but it holds only 0.3 percent of the global banana market. Less than four percent of its produce is refrigerated during transportation. Compare that to rates of 90 percent in Europe and North America. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers thinks that up to 25 percent of food waste in developing countries could be eliminated through commercial refrigeration.

But refrigeration has long been a North American toy, and for good reasons: It’s expensive. It requires constant maintenance. And it shows millions of tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, where it reaps climate change and global warming. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that food waste accounts for 3.3 Gt of carbon dioxide equivalent every year, a number Direct Energy has compared to the exhaust from some 20 million SUVs. Would large-scale commercial refrigeration merely be moving us from frying pan to fire?

Sustainable refrigeration requires innovative technologies like emissions-free heat engines, chlorofluorocarbon-free refrigerants, and a legal climate that encourages innovation. Take the ol’ restaurant excuse, for instance. “We can’t give this [insert food here]. We might be sued!” That might have been in true in 1995, but then Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which freed food vendors from legal liability when donating food to non-profits assisting needy individuals.

Whatever food not fit for man could go to beasts. At one point, sloppin’ the hogs was the usual way of recycling food scraps. Man eats dinner; hog eats leftovers; man eats hog. Unfortunately, more than 95 percent of American food waste now goes to landfills or incinerators, when it could go somewhere it would be more appreciated: the bellies of farm animals. There are challenges, to be sure. How do you move stale bread and moldy spaghetti from Los Angeles or Atlanta, from the coasts, to the wide-open cattle ranches and hog farms of the Midwest?

Then again, if America could put a man on the moon, surely it can move a stinky banana peel a few hundred miles.

In the meantime, here’s an idea: Try Using a smaller plate!





About the author

Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog! I believe in living green, organically, and natural in every aspect of our lives. My mission is to help educate you on how to live green, help save our environment and to help you and your family live a happier, healthier life!

12 thoughts on “How Food Waste Is Harming Our Planet!”

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  7. Way to go, Marla! If we can feed the leftovers to farm animals that would be awesome temp solution. It always bothers me and hurts me when I see the food being wasted! Another spot where lots of food is wasted is Elementary school cafeteria. I will support your movement!

    1. Hi Niti,
      Yes schools do waste a lot of food. My husband works at a hospital in the food service area and they throw loads of perfectly good food every week. It is absolutely so wasteful. Thanks for reading my article and commenting. Have a healthy happy blessed day.

      1. If the hospital is throwing away food that was ready to serve on patients’ trays but did not get served, it may be possible to donate that to a homeless shelter or other organization that serves meals. America’s Second Harvest is an organization that can help you arrange donation in your area.

        But food that’s been served to patients, only they didn’t eat it because they’re not feeling well… I don’t know what to do about that! It would bother me, too, if I had your husband’s job, yet I have to admit that food that’s been near sick people is not necessarily safe for other people, or even animals, to eat, and we have to be cautious about that. However, it could still be composted.

        Does your husband have any innovative ideas for what the hospital should be doing about food waste?

        1. Hi Becca,
          The food my husband sees them throw away is food that has never been used for patients – it is extra food that was made and sometimes it might be made for the patients or employees of the hospital including doctors. My understanding is that the employees that work in the kitchen area can and will take it home with them but otherwise they throw it out after a specific date.

          All food that is served to the patient’s is always thrown out immediately and when they are cleaning trays before washing dishes.

          My husband only works there part-time about 2 days a week and he has nothing to do with the management or rules they make, unfortunately. He just tells about it and we both think it is such a terrible waste of food. From what he knows is this is the rules they have to follow and why they can’t donate it we are no sure. It might be because it coming from a hospital and anywhere in the hospital there is a chance of germs and viruses. He has questioned it a few times and the answer is that they have to throw it out and cannot donate it.

          Thanks for reading my article and commenting. Have a healthy blessed weekend. Marla

    1. Hi Nancy,
      You certainly are right about that – it is time to think outside the box. Thank you for reading my article and commenting! Have a healthy happy blessed day!

Would love to know your thoughts!

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