“Our data suggest that the average person in the United States wastes about a pound of food per day,” said the University of Vermont’s Meredith Niles, one of the study’s authors, along with researchers at the Department of Agriculture and the University of New Hampshire.
That totals about 25 percent of all food, by weight, available for consumption in the United States — or about 30 percent of all available calories, the researchers estimate — a figure that’s larger than previous attempts to measure food waste.
The environmental costs of that wasted food are tremendous: 30 million acres of cropland (about the land area of Pennsylvania), 4.2 trillion gallons of water and nearly 2 billion pounds of fertilizer. Fertilizer contains compounds that can run off farm fields and compromise water quality.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, did not calculate the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. But prior research has suggested wasted food, like all food production, also contributes to the warming of the planet, because agriculture is a key source of the fast-warming gases methane and nitrous oxide.
Enjoy curated articles directly to your inbox.