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Food Waste in America
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United States of America’s food supply is the most abundant and varied in the world. American citizens spend a much smaller share of their income on food if to compare with people of any other country. In the recent years, growing concerns about resource conservation and environmental cost associated with food waste in America have raised public awareness on food loss. This has accelerated public and private efforts to make better use of available food supplies that would be otherwise wasted (Stuart 43).
In the year 2010, 34 million tons of food waste was generated, which was more than any other waste material other than paper. Food waste accounted for more than 14 percent of the total municipal solid waste in the same year (Stuart 67). These food wastes included uneaten food and food preparation scraps from residential areas and commercial establishments, such as restaurants, grocery stores, supermarkets, and cafeteria.
According to the US estimates, half of the total amount of food produced annually is wasted. Every single year, up to 295 billion pounds of food is usually thrown away, which is enough food to fill a football stadium that has 90,000 seats to brim. This is because many Americans give very little thought to the amount of food they throw away as waste. Most of them assume that there will be more supply each new day. In addition, most Americans are normally unaware of where their food really comes from; this is because large amount of staple crops that are used in production of food are being subsidized by the government, which makes it inexpensive; therefore, people can easily waste it.
Most of the food wastes are generated by commercial establishments such as supermrkets and restaurants. According to a study by Integrated Waste Management Board of California, supermarkets throw away approximately 3000 pounds of food waste per store every year. Large portion of this food is normally unsafe for consumption. It usually consists of less visually appealing foods, such as bananas that have started turning brown, unblemished potatoes that have started to turn green, packaged food approaching expiry date, and unspoiled food which is normally thrown away to create room for a new fresh food shipment.
Restaurants are another major source of food waste in America. According to the recent study, a single restaurant in America disposes of more than 50 tons of organic waste each year. Approximately 76% of the organic waste disposed is food waste. This waste is generated due to over preparation of the items on the menu, especially when the menu has extended choices, which make it difficult to manage food in the inventories.
Furthermore, sudden change in weather condition in America normally causes unexpected fluctuations in food sales in restaurants; hence, a lot of food prepared end up in the waste bin. It is also uncommon for a consumer to take home an uneaten portion of meal purchased in the restaurant and from other foodservice providers for later consumption. Therefore, restaurants end up discarding such leftovers for health considerations. This means that large amount of food end up going to waste.
Households in America generate a lot of food waste as well. On average, individual households in America waste about 14 percent of their total food purchases. 15 percent of these purchases include products that are usually within their date of expiration but are never opened (Bloom 23). These prroducts include sealed cheese, loafs, and beverages among others. These losses in the household occur because of over purchasing of food, which in most cases end up rotting in the refrigerator. Over preparation of the food also result into piles of spoiled leftovers, which end being disposed of.
According to the USDA, food waste poses a very serious environmental concern despite being biodegradable. When food waste gets into the landfills, it undergoes decomposition, hence releases methane and carbon dioxide, which are greenhouse gases. Both methane and carbon dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere, with methane gas trapping up to 23 times as much heat as carbon dioxide does. This increases the amount of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere, hence promotes global warming (Sage 45).
Another way through which food waste affects the environment is through food production. Production of food is considered to be very costly to the environment. This is because land needs to be cleared before planting and calls for application of pesticides and fertilizers, which normally damage the soil after years of their application. Furthermore, food production uses about 70 percent of the fresh water in America, which means wastage of food is wastage of fresh water, which is a very scarce natural resource. In addition, over 300 million barrels of oil, which represent 4 percent of total US oil consumption, is used in production and distribution of food that end up in the landfills.
Reducing food waste at commercial level, in households, and at individual level can help reduce wastage of food by almost 25 percent (Stuart 57). This will help in conservation of the environment, energy, resources, and money used in production of the food.