And yet. And yet. It really is so unnecessary a reaction. Even with the US drought there's more than enough food in the world to feed everyone. Dana Gunders, over at the National Resources Defense Council, has just released an issue paper on food waste (pdf) in the United States. From her blog:
Food is simply too good to waste. Even the most sustainably farmed food does us no good if the food is never eaten. Getting food to our tables eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land. Moreover, almost all of that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions.
Nutrition is also lost in the mix -- food saved by reducing losses by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables. Given all the resources demanded for food production, it is critical to make sure that the least amount possible is needlessly squandered on its journey to our plates.
|From the NRDC website|
The same is true worldwide. Canada is wasting about the same amount of food as the US, according to The Star. And the European Union released a report in 2010 that points up their problems in this area.
And its not something that's easy to do anything about. It may not do farmers or consumers any good, and it certainly does nothing for those of us who are food insecure, but the level of waste is a big profit centre for the food industry.
It is also an untapped resource. Much of what is disposed of in landfills (where it contributes methane to the global climate change problem), is compostable. From farm to garbage, we're tossing away expensive and highly recyclable material. And worse, we pay taxes to get rid of it.
The solutions are pretty straightforward. Composting, of course. But using waste bits to make stock would help. Heck, sending elementary school students out to play for twenty minutes before lunch leads to less waste when they eat their lunch. Schools are well placed to eliminate food waste from the general waste stream. And lowered demand for food will keep prices down. It might impact food industry profits--particularly if we were to make it much more expensive to dispose of food waste. But that's a price I'm willing to pay.