The Food Waste Problem

The amount of food wasted in the United States is absolutely insane.

I know we briefly went over the Food Recovery Hierarchy pyramid in one of our spring CEC meetings, but when researching issues related to food for the e-Sustainability Guide that we’re currently compiling, I ran across some astounding stats about the U.S. food system that I’d like to share with you.

One such fact came from a report released in August 2012 by the Natural Resources Defense Council, stating that 40% of the food Americans have available to them (from farm to table) goes uneaten! Can you believe that!?! Also, in a study published by the Department of Agriculture (DOA) about food loss in 2008 (the most recent year for which a full analysis has been done), it was stated that $165.6 billion in food was wasted that year by food retailers and consumers, and that $390 worth of food per person was wasted in the U.S. in 2008.

Don’t be fooled by the dollar signs; this is not just an economic issue, but one related to social justice and the environment as well. Poverty, hunger, methane, and soil fertility are all directly related to the food waste problem. For you economists out there, the “bottom-line” costs can speak for themselves.

Most of the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills, and this is unnecessary for a number of reasons, including greenhouse gas production, unsettling food access, and diminishing land space in general. You may think, “We should all be composting!”, and although that is smart thinking and an important piece in the puzzle, it is actually the least preferable tactic (according to the EPA and DOA) to prevent such a high degree of food waste here in America.


I encourage you to get involved by following the actions laid out in the hierarchy and by showing your support for businesses and governments that seek to follow it, too. This could mean simply sharing articles related to the food waste problem through social media platforms and in conversations with friends, expressing your interest by writing your State representative and/or participating in City Hall discussions.

For information compiled by the Food Salvage and Surplus Working Group of the Austin/Travis County Sustainable Food Policy Board about Austin’s current efforts and future steps, visit



2 thoughts on “The Food Waste Problem

  1. Pingback: Waste…. It’s a way of life. | Outside Perception

  2. Pingback: Apartment Composting and You! | UT Campus Environmental Center

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