Last week I threw away half a burrito, some rad lentil salad that got old, and my wallet (but that’s another story …). The point is, I like to think I’m not that big of a food waster, but yep, guilty. I went digging for stats on the subject and found some interesting stuff in the report Global Food Losses and Food Waste. The study was carried out by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology and was commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for a conference on food waste (ironically held at an international packaging industry trade fair) in May. Here are the biggest zingers I learned:
• Consumers in North America and Europe waste about 209 to 253 pounds of food per person every year. The USDA says the average person in the U.S. eats 4.7 pounds of food per day. So that means the amount of food we each waste in the U.S. per year would feed us for about one and a half to two months (44 to 54 days to be exact).
• Globally, one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost, about 1.3 billion tons.
• Counterintuitively, industrialized and developing countries actually waste about the same amount of food (670 and 630 million tons, respectively).
• The difference is at what level in the food supply chain the waste occurs (and this is where it starts to make sense, and the word waste becomes somewhat relative): In industrialized countries, a lot of waste is at the retail and consumer level; in developing countries it’s mostly at the postharvest and processing level. Translation: Stores and people are tossing perfectly edible food, versus food spoiling before it even gets to the store due to limitations in transit/storage/processing.
• In North America and Oceania, 50 percent of the fish and seafood initially caught is wasted.
• “Appearance Quality Standards” can cause human-grade food to be used as animal feed or waste because, say, a carrot curves a little bit more than a supermarket finds desirable.