On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency announced their plan to tackle food waste in America, a problem that has grown by 50 percent since the 1970s. Today, as much as 40 percent of food produced in America is thrown away, amounting to 1,400 calories per person per day, $400 per person per year, and notably, 31 million tons of food added to landfills each year.
Throwing away food contributes directly to climate change as decomposing food releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times as effective at trapping atmospheric heat than carbon. According to the EPA, 17 percent of U.S. methane emissions come from landfills.
But a high rate of wasted food also means a high rate of the energy that goes into food production — the water, fuel and farmland needed to grow crops and produce meat — is also wasted. It’s been estimated that 2 percent of all U.S. energy goes into food that American consumers and retailers are wasting.