Americans waste nearly 150,000 tons of food a day, the equivalent of more than 400 grams per person, a study said Wednesday, noting that fruits and vegetables were the most commonly discarded products.
This food that went to trash was grown on nearly 7% of US farmland, and thousands of billions of gallons of water were used to produce it, according to an article in the journal PLOS ONE. It also corresponds to 30% of the calories consumed daily by each American.
Fruit and vegetables account for 39% of all these products, followed by dairy products (17%), meat (14%) and cereals (12%). Products that are less likely to be discarded include chips, oil, sweets and non-alcoholic beverages.
“Better diets are based on higher proportions of fruits and vegetables, which are wasted in greater quantities than other products,” says Meredith Niles, co-author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Vermont.
“Eating healthy is important and brings many benefits, but the more we follow these diets, the more we need to be aware of food waste,” she added.
The study, based on government figures and surveys on food waste between 2007 and 2014, reports a “significant” impact on the environment and on farmers.
“Food waste corresponded to harvests produced with the use of 780 million pounds of pesticide and 1.8 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer, annually,” according to the same source.
Among the possible solutions to this problem, the study proposes to educate consumers to better prepare and store fresh fruits and vegetables, and suggests integrating efforts to prevent food wastage in government programs.
“Food waste is an issue that plays out at many different levels,” said lead author Zach Conrad of the North Dakota Agricultural Research Service, which reports to the US Department of Agriculture.
“Looking at them holistically will become increasingly important to finding sustainable ways of meeting the needs of a growing world population,” he added.