American households toss out 150,000 tons of food each day — roughly a pound of food per person per day.
The waste was recently uncovered in a new report compiled by the US Department of Agriculture that noted most tossed food tended to be fruits and vegetables, and that the wasteful habit has a pretty sizable environmental toll.
The volume of discarded food wastes what is equivalent to the yearly use of 30 million acres of land, alongside the use of 780 million pounds of pesticide, and 4.2 trillion gallons of water. The rotting food also emits methane as it disintegrates in landfills, adding the the atmosphere’s stock of greenhouse gases.
The study was composed after researchers looked at eight years of food data to try and determine what sorts of food is wasted, and what sorts of behaviours Americans have during various meal times.
The most wasteful of Americans tend to be those who are the healthiest, the researchers found, because those individuals tend to keep a diet high in perishable fruits and vegetables.
“We need a simultaneous effort to increase food quality as well as reduce food waste,” Lisa Jahns, a nutritionist at the USDA, told the Guardian. “We need to put both of those things out.”
“Consumers aren’t connecting the dots, [and] they don’t see the cost when they throw food in the trash,” Ms Jahns continued. “At the same time, we don’t want to undermine legitimate food safety concerns and we need to be aware it’s not just the cost of food that’s the issue. It’s the time and energy required to prepare and store food, which often isn’t a priority in a busy household.”