In a recent national survey, 70 percent of U.S. respondents reported feeling guilt about throwing away food.
Many of them said that wasting food was also a waste of their money, while others felt bad because many people live under the poverty line and lack their daily bread. But only a few (15 percent) were concerned about the environmental impact their squandering may have.
According to the USDA, about 133 billion pounds of food go to waste on a yearly basis. And that food does not simply decompose in a landfill as most people may think, experts warn.
People usually put their food waste in plastic bags or leave it in the initial containers which bar sun rays, worms and air from breaking down the food naturally. So, though the common misconception is food waste would easily decompose in a remote waste burial, food leftovers are actually preserved for decades in plastic or PET containers.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University reported that people usually discard perfectly edible food because they are concerned over its freshness or that they may become ill.
Scientists also learned that most Americans undervalue the amount of cash is going to waste along with discarded food. Participants in the survey said that they believed they wasted about $640 on food waste every year. But USDA figures show that Americans literally throw away on average $900 per household every year, or a $161 billion nationally.
The Department of Agriculture also cautioned that Americans waste up to 35 percent of food supply.
“[People] say they’re wasting very little but we know that doesn’t quite match with the actual numbers regarding waste,”
Johns Hopkins researchers said.
The team also reported that households, restaurants and groceries throw in the trash the highest amount of food. Sadly, most of that food can still be eaten though it had reached its sell-by date.
Several U.S. municipalities including NYC and San Francisco have already rolled out composting programs requesting that people dispose of the food they no longer want to eat in special containers.
Several cafeterias announced that they manually separate food waste from the rest of the trash before throwing it out. Yet, two years ago a study showed that only five percent of food waste was composted.
Food waste can also be re-purposed in bioreactors, which can turn it into fertilizers and bio fuels for cities. Bioreactors accelerate the decomposition process and capture the methane and other gases released in the process which can substantially trim the cities’ energy bills.
Image Source: Crowd Munch