A new study in the Nutritional Journal sheds light on shocking levels of food wastage in the US, revealing that the average American only consumes 59 percent of the food they buy. Such excessive squandering not only places a strain on the environment, but also burns a major hole in the average person's pocket, with more money being spent on uneaten food than on gasoline or clothing each year.
Analyzing data recorded as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2001 and 2016, the study authors were able to build a picture of the food consumption patterns of 39,758 American adults. Their results indicated that some 14 percent of all food purchased ends up being thrown away because it has become inedible, while 27 percent is simply wasted despite being in perfectly good condition.
Given the amount of pesticides and fertilizers that are used in agricultural processes, not to mention the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from food production, this level of wastage is associated with a massive amount of unnecessary pollution. Furthermore, since most people don’t compost their garbage, the vast majority of this uneaten food gets sent to landfill sites, creating yet more environmental issues.
Yet the study authors believe that the financial implications of frittering away groceries are most likely to motivate people to change their behaviors, which is why they have chosen to highlight the monetary value of all this waste. According to their calculations, the average American spends $13.27 each day on food, of which $3.62 is literally thrown into the trash.
This adds up to $1,300 a year, which is considerably more than most people spend on other essential items. For example, in 2017 the average single-person household spent £1,207 on clothes, $1,250 on gasoline, £1,149 on household heating and electricity, $1,046 on property taxes, and $936 on household maintenance, repairs and insurance.
Meat and seafood bought in restaurants account for 38 percent of all money spent on uneaten food, while a further 30 percent of food waste expenditure goes on fruit and vegetables purchased in supermarkets but thrown away at home.
While it may seem like an obvious thing to say, the study authors wrap up their analysis by stressing that “targeted efforts to reduce food waste can help individuals and households make positive changes toward increasing their food budgets and reducing environmental impact.”