Waste in America: Statistics and facts on food & water

Wasted vegetables and fruits of a hypermarket.


  • According to America's Second Harvest, over 41 billion pounds of food have been wasted this year (www.secondharvest.org).
  • According to a 2004 study from the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson (http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/news/ng.asp?id=56376), on average, American households waste 14 percent of their food purchases.
  • Fifteen percent of that includes products still within their expiration date but never opened. Timothy Jones, an anthropologist at the UA Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology who led the study, estimates an average family of four currently tosses out $590 per year, just in meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products. Nationwide, Jones says, household food waste alone adds up to $43 billion, making it a serious economic problem.
  • According to a study by the University of Arizona Garbage Project, Americans throw away 1.3 pounds of food every day, or 474.5 pounds per year. This is more than twice the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) estimates.
  • http://wasteage.com/mag/waste_food_waste_2/
    Yearly, America's convenience stores, restaurants and supermarkets throw out about 27 million tons of edible food worth $30 billion. University of Arizona College of Social and Behavior Sciences, "Retailers Offer Food That Is Convenient, But Sometimes Unprofitable," 2002; "University research 'trashes' fast food," Waste News, 5/12/03
  • Approximately 12 percent of the food served as part of the National School Lunch Program is wasted, resulting in an estimated direct economic loss of $600 million. "US Department of Agriculture, 'Several Strategies May Lower Plate Waste In School Feeding Programs,' Joann F. Guthrie and Jean C. Buzby, Food Review, Volume 5, Issue 2, March 2002
  • According to a 1997 study by US Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS) entitled "Estimating and Addressing America's Food Losses", about 96 billion pounds of food, or more than a quarter of the 356 billion pounds of edible food available for human consumption in the United States, was lost to human use by food retailers, consumers, and foodservice establishments in 1995.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, fluid milk, grain products, and sweeteners (mostly sugar and high-fructose corn syrup) accounted for two-thirds of the losses. 16 billion pounds of milk and 14 billion pounds of grain products are also included in this loss.
  • According to the US Department of Agriculture, up to one-fifth of America's food goes to waste each year, with an estimated 130 pounds of food per person ending up in landfills. The annual value of this lost food is estimated at around $31 billion But the real story is that roughly 49 million people could have been fed by those lost resources. (For your persona jihad against wastage, see A Citizen's Guide to Food Recovery)
  • 5 percent of Americans' leftovers could feed 4 million people for 1 day
  • It is estimated that one billion people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. That's roughly 100 times as many as those who actually die from these causes each year.
  • http://www.thehungersite.com/clickToGive/home.faces;jsessionid=6DE3E4F1DBD7FCCFC0D73C430958994E.ctgProd04?siteId=1&link=ctg_ths_home_from_ths_home_sitenav
  • About 24,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes. This is down from 35,000 ten years ago, and 41,000 twenty years ago. Three-fourths of the deaths are children under the age of five.
  • http://www.thehungersite.com/clickToGive/home.faces;jsessionid=6DE3E4F1DBD7FCCFC0D73C430958994E.ctgProd04?siteId=1&link=ctg_ths_home_from_ths_home_sitenav
  • Sources: http://www.metro-region.org/index.cfm/go/by.web/id/25402/print/true/PREVIEW=0&ID=25402/


  • Letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours.
  • About 75 percent of the water we use in our homes is used in the bathroom. Unless you have a low flush toilet, for example, you use about five gallons to seven gallons of water with every flush! A leaky toilet can waste more than 10,000 gallons of water a year. http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/saving_energy/index.html
  • Estimates vary, but each person in the U.S. uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. The largest use of household water is to flush the toilet, and after that, to take showers and baths. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet, Water Q & A: Water Use At Home,? Last modified, March 18, 2004 (Accessed 8/05) http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/qahome
  • The average North American consumes over 105 gallons of water a day compared to the average .European?s consumption of almost 53 gallons. The average person living in sub-Saharan Africa consumes only 2.4 to 5.3 gallons per day. World Water Council, World Water Vision, 2000, ISBN 1-85383-730X http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/Vision/Documents/Chapter2.pdf
  • In contrast to tap water, which is distributed through an energy-efficient infrastructure, transporting bottled water long distances involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels
  • 86 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter. http://www.franklygreen.com/my_weblog/2007/06/bottled_water_f.html
  • The irrigation of U.S. lawns and landscapes claims an estimated 7.9 billion gallons of water a day, a volume that would fill 14 billion six-packs of beer. Worldwatch Institute, State of the World 2004 Special Focus: The Consumer Society, January 2004, I SBN: 0-393-32539-3

(Note: since the statistics are compiled based on multiple sources and research, they somewhat differ.)


Photo Attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Treasure_trove_of_wasted_food.JPG


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