3 Out of 4 Americans Waste Food — and Money

Americans admit to wasting food, and it bothers them -- but not so much because it harms the planet. Find out the shocking amount that ends up in the trash.

3 Out of 4 Americans Waste Food — and Money Photo (cc) by LoopZilla

Three out of four Americans — 76 percent — say they throw out food at least once a month, and 53 percent throw away food every week.

Yet 70 percent say they are bothered by how much food goes to waste in the United States, according to a survey sponsored by the American Chemistry Council.

Government estimates confirm that food waste is a serious problem in the U.S. According to the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 31 percent of the food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten every year.

That amounts to $161.6 billion in wasted food per year — about $522 per person, per year, according to the USDA.

Wasted money is the biggest reason consumers worry about their food waste, according to the American Chemistry Council survey. Reasons why the 1,000 survey respondents expressed concern about food waste include:

  1. Lost money (79 percent)
  2. Others not having enough to eat (45 percent)
  3. Adverse impacts on the environment (15 percent)

A recent separate food-waste survey conducted for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future also found that people who try to reduce their waste do so chiefly to save money. Setting an example for their children also ranked high on the list.

Environmental concerns ranked last on the list of motivations cited in the Johns Hopkins survey.

Americans waste more food than they realize, and that may contribute significantly to the problem. The research by the Center for a Livable Future suggests that three out four Americans believe they waste less food than the average American.

That research, based on the food-waste survey of about 2,000 people, was published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Plos One.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents plastics manufacturers, suggests plastic packaging as a way to reduce food waste:

Plastic packaging helps prevent food waste by providing barriers to oxygen, light, temperatures, moisture, microbes, and other factors that lead to spoilage.

However, we suggest reading “13 Simple Ways to Stop Wasting Food — and Money” before going out and spending money on any type of container.

Do you think your household wastes more or less food than the average American? What steps have you taken to prevent food waste? Share your thoughts in a comment below or on Facebook.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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