Food is wasted throughout the supply chain, from farm to home. All the land, water, labor, energy, and other inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food is wasted . It is very important to be aware of the environmental impacts of food waste and what can be done to reduce waste at every level.
96% of the food that gets thrown away goes to landfills. Why does this matter?
When food waste is transported to landfills, it does not biodegrade properly. It rots and decomposes under hot, oxygen-less conditions. As a result, food waste in landfills produce a harmful greenhouse gas called methane . Methane in landfills is about 28 times more potent than CO2 over its 12-year lifetime . According to the EPA, landfills are the third-largest contributor to methane in the US. About 25% of manmade global warming is caused by methane emissions .
Over 25% of fresh water, or over 45 trillion gallons of water, in the US goes to wasted food .
Agriculture is the largest user of fresh water. Produce contains a significant amount of water, therefore when fruits and vegetables are wasted, the water used to grow these foods are also wasted. Raising livestock requires more water than any other food; meat production uses 8-10 times more water than producing grains . It is important to acknowledge the large amount of water that is being wasted when food is wasted.
Food systems in the US consume around 30% of available global energy; 38% of this energy is used to produce food that contributes to food loss or waste .
Just one example of how much energy is wasted due to food waste can be seen by looking at dairy products. In the US, 24.4 billion pounds of dairy products are wasted every year. The energy used to produce this amount of dairy products equals the entire world’s energy needs for one day .