This blog was written by Diz Swift and Mary O'Kicki of the LWV Climate Interest Group; the Food Waste Toolkit was created by the Group's Soil and Agriculture Team.
Over one-third of the food produced in the US is never consumed — it is wasted. Food waste means all resources to grow the food are also wasted — energy, labor, water, and fertilizers. The energy loss alone is enough to power 50 million homes annually.
Most of that discarded food finds its way into a landfill, where it is buried under piles of garbage. The amount is not trivial: food waste accounts for about 25% of materials sent to landfills. In the landfill, the food decomposes, releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas and major contributor to climate change. Landfills are responsible for a whopping 15% of US methane emissions. The gas emissions don’t end there; in some cases, the waste is then burned, releasing carbon dioxide. Although not as potent as methane, carbon dioxide is another prominent greenhouse gas.
And despite all this wasted food and the complications it brings, approximately 35 million people in the US are still food insecure.
Solutions to Food Waste
Work to redirect surplus food, reduce food waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is happening at all levels of government.