According to a new study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Americans waste a lot of food. The value of discarded food in the country is about $240 billion a year (€221.5 billion). Surprisingly, those who eat healthier waste food the most.
Americans throw away about 30 to 40 percent of food. The average value of discarded food is $1,866 a year per household (€1,723).
Scientists have found that those who eat healthier throw more food away because they buy more fresh fruits and vegetables that go bad faster.
Conversely, households who follow a list when shopping and have to travel further to get to a supermarket have the lowest amount of discarded food.
Edward Jaenicke, professor of Agricultural Economics at the Pennsylvania State University, points out that wasting food also means wasting resources used to produce it, which include land, energy, water, and labor.
Jaenicke and his colleague Yang Yu analyzed data from the 4,000 households involved in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey known as FoodAPS.
“According to our estimates, the average American household throws away 31.9 percent of the food they buy,” Jaenicke said.
Scientists have also looked at various characteristics that can increase or reduce food waste. They found that the higher the income, the more waste of food. And those who eat healthier with lots of fruits and vegetables in their diet also throw more food away.
On the other hand, households with greater financial uncertainty, as well as households with a higher number of members, have a smaller percentage of discarded food.
Not only is food wastage regrettable, but other studies have found that the life cycle of discarded food contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.
“According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, food waste is responsible for about 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gases per year. If it were a country, it would be the third-largest CO2 emitter after the U.S. and China,” Jaenicke added.
Wasting food is also a major problem in Europe
Not only Americans waste food. According to the European Union, 88 million tonnes of still edible food worth €143 billion ends up in the trash each year.
For example, the average Czech consumes 785 kilograms of food a year and throws away 200 kilograms. At the same time, according to Eurostat, every 14th European household does not have the finances for daily meat consumption.
The EU, together with the UN, wants to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030. Judging from the data available to food banks and activists, however, this seems like it will be a difficult target to reach.