- Around 30-40% of all food in the US is wasted each year.
- Food is omitted 22 percent all municipal solid waste.
- More than four out of five Americans throw away good food because of expiration labels.
- The USDA and the EPA want to reduce food waste by doing this 50% until 2030.
- Households are the largest source of food waste 43%.
- Other 40% of food waste comes from grocery stores and restaurants.
- Farms are the source of 16% of food waste.
- Manufacturers only produce approx 2% all food waste.
- Commercial food waste is eliminated 61% all food waste.
- Household food waste makes up the rest 39%.
More stats: Food waste at grocery stores, US chicken consumption, US egg consumption.
General food waste
Food waste is a significant problem, affecting everything from the environment to our wallets.
Americans waste food year-round, but the numbers spike around the holidays, likely due to a surge in food consumption.
Food Waste Percentage in America:
- Food waste causes the release of about 8% of all greenhouse gases worldwide.
- About 38% of bread and other grain products are lost to food waste each year.
- Americans pour about a fifth (20%) of all milk down the sink.
- Almost half of all fruit and vegetables never make it onto the table.
- In retail, 12% of food is wasted due to cosmetic imperfections.
- Another 28% is wasted at the consumer level, also based on looks.
- Americans waste about 35% of all edible Thanksgiving turkey.
- Food waste increases by up to 35% around the holidays due to food surplus and leftovers.
- People throw away about a pound of food a day.
- The average American household wastes about 32% of its food.
- Food waste is a leading cause of freshwater pollution in the United States.
- About 25% of freshwater is wasted through food waste.
Food waste in the supply chain
The supply chain is a surprisingly large source of food waste, from farm to factory to distribution.
Quality and appearance standards are a big part of the problem, and the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped.
- About 21-33% of the water used for agriculture produces food that is wasted.
- About 18% of all arable land is used to produce food that nobody will eat.
- About a third of all production-related food waste becomes animal feed.
- During the COVID-19 lockdowns, manufacturers have had to slaughter thousands of animals but have been unable to ship them to restaurants or grocery stores.
- Cutting off edible parts of food, from the skin to the crust, accounts for most of the food waste at the manufacturing stage.
- When a buyer refuses a delivery, the manufacturer usually throws it away if they can’t find anyone to take the food.
- Grocery shoppers refuse between 2% and 5% of all deliveries.
- Marine fishing wastes about 8% of all fish caught in a year.
- About 16% to 32% of the fish brought back to sea by American commercial fishing boats die or are already dead.
- The average discard rate for tropical shrimp trawling is 27%.
- Farmers may not harvest all of their crops due to weather, disease or pests, so they often farm more than necessary.
- Despite food donation programs, donating unused crops can cost more than it’s worth.
- Farms are losing about 20 billion pounds of crops.
- Strict product requirements lead to many losses when packaging the products.
- The manufacturing phase is responsible for about two billion pounds of food lost.
Not all food produced reaches a grocery store, but reaching the store does not guarantee someone will eat it.
Grocery stores can be a significant contributor to food waste, even if wasting food affects their bottom line.
- The average store sells 31,000 items but needs to discard items it can’t sell before they go bad.
- Since Vermont’s food waste ban, grocery stores in the state have donated an additional 40% of groceries.
- Unsold fruits and vegetables cost grocery stores about $15 billion a year.
- Retail operations are losing more perishable items like meat, produce and baked goods.
- Short shelf life can also lead to food waste in the grocery store.
- Even when a grocery store donates excess food, the donations can be too large for a food bank to absorb.
Food waste in the restaurant
Restaurants want to keep things fresh and food looking good, but that can lead to overproduction and other causes of food waste.
But consumers can also be part of the problem if they order too many groceries and don’t take them home to use up the leftovers.
- Eating out contributes to approximately $162 billion in wasted food and other related costs.
- Americans spend about $3,000 a year eating out in restaurants.
- Restaurants waste about 40% of food before the food has a chance to reach a customer.
- Customers leave about 55% of edible leftovers in the restaurant.
- Guests often only eat about 83% of their meal, although this may be partly due to large portion sizes.
- Restaurants are not legally allowed to donate food from all-you-can-eat buffets, so they contribute significantly to food waste.
- Improper food storage and over-preparation are two other major causes of food waste in restaurants.
- The preparation of food until the restaurant closes is a particularly important issue.
- Larger portion sizes have recently contributed to an increase in food waste in restaurants.
food waste in the home
- Most household food waste comes mainly from food spoilage (about 66%).
- The remaining third comes from serving too much food or overcooking the food.
- Poor planning and over-buying of groceries can also contribute to the problem.
- Portion sizes in cookbooks have increased by about 36% since 2006.
- Now, more than 80% of people in the US throw away perfectly good food when it’s past its sell-by or best-before date.
- Food losses in households waste about eight times as much energy as food losses earlier in the supply chain.
- About 88% of Americans say they are trying to reduce food waste at home.
- Now 71% of people try not to buy too much food and they try to eat what they buy before it goes bad.
- About 34% of Americans try to share food before it goes bad if they can’t eat it all.
Economic impact of food waste
Food waste can impact your wallet, and that can hurt people who don’t make a lot of money.
From food insecurity to packaging issues, our food waste has financial consequences.
- After France banned food waste, donations increased by 30%, allowing the US to achieve similar results.
- About 12.5% of Americans struggle to afford groceries despite all the food waste.
- Overall, about 17% of people in the US are food insecure, and a third of these are children.
- Food insecurity has increased by about 42% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A 15% reduction in food waste could feed an additional 25 million people a year.
- With an average annual grocery bill of $16,500 per family, up to 9.6% of that is wasted ($1,600).
- Clarifying use-by labels could reduce food waste by up to 20%.
- Americans spend about 6.4% of their income on food, which is far less than other countries and can contribute to a lack of due diligence about waste.
- Changing immigration laws have created labor shortages that have caused some farmers to close their farms.
- The closures of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in farms and manufacturing plants shutting down due to financial reasons or workers falling ill.
Other food waste statistics
There are many other statistics about food waste in America that don’t fit into specific categories.
Consider the following statistics, from environmental impact to energy use.
- To cope with population growth, food production must increase by 70% by 2050, but also be more efficient to reduce waste.
- Food waste can produce methane that is 86 times more potent compared to carbon dioxide.
- About 4% of all greenhouse gases produced by the US come from food waste.
- Food waste per capita increased by 8% between 2010 and 2017.
- From 1960 to 2018, food waste increased by 50.8 million tons.
- About 36% of Americans have reduced their food waste since the first COVID-19 lockdowns.
- Also since the pandemic, just over half (51%) of Americans plan to reduce food waste.
- Food production consumes about 15.7% of all energy, much of which is wasted through food waste.
- We only recycle about 10% of food waste each year.
- Awareness of the problem of food waste increased by 205% between 2011 and 2016.
- A lack of studies on food waste may have contributed to part of the problem.
- A survey found that 75% of people take food waste seriously.
- Humans only compost about 5% of food waste.
- Not many people know about the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which protects donors if they donate food that people can’t eat, but it could save a lot of food waste.
- About 41% of Americans know how much food is wasted.
- Most food waste in the US is food that is perfectly safe to eat.