Think about the last time you went to a restaurant. Did you notice customers cleaning their plates? How much food gets sent back to the kitchen and ultimately disposed of?
Cheesecake, pizza, snacks, veggies – millions of tons of food are being tossed into the garbage – with serious repercussions for the economy and the environment.
A report released in February and reported on by the New York Times showed that about 60 million metric tons of food are wasted in the United States each year, with an estimated value of $162 billion!
About 32 million metric tons of it ends up in municipal landfills, which is unfortunate, because all of the food discarded by retailers and consumers in the most developed countries would be more than enough to feed all of the world’s 870 million hungry people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The problem is expected to grow as the world’s population increases and the middle class grows.
Food waste takes its toll on the environment, too.
It requires huge quantities of water, fertilizer, land, gas and energy to grow, produce, transport, cook and serve the meals that ultimately end up on our tables. The Huffington Post reports 31% of water used in the U.S. is consumed by crop irrigation.
When food is thrown into the landfills, it decomposes and emits methane, a greenhouse gas. The New York Times article says that food waste creates 3.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gasses annually, which is about seven percent of the total emissions.
What can we do to help?
So what can we do to help? Eat your veggies! And your apples, and your sandwiches, or anything else you order or cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you don’t finish your plate of food, take the leftovers home or have them for lunch the next day. It’s a good practice for your belly, your wallet, our landfills and the environment.
For unavoidable scraps, learn about how composting works here. And to learn about how some restaurants and stores are striving to achieve efficiency in their operations in an effort to reduce food waste, check out this piece, also in the Times.