Sunday, November 29, 2009

Food Waste in US and its environmental impact

PLoS One has an interesting article The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact by Kevin D. Hall et al

Food waste contributes to excess consumption of freshwater and fossil fuels which, along with methane and CO2 emissions from decomposing food, impacts global climate change. Here, we calculate the energy content of nationwide food waste from the difference between the US food supply and the food consumed by the population. The latter was estimated using a validated mathematical model of metabolism relating body weight to the amount of food eaten. We found that US per capita food waste has progressively increased by ~50% since 1974 reaching more than 1400 kcal per person per day or 150 trillion kcal per year. Food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater consumption and ~300 million barrels of oil per year.

As this study shows, this is a serious issue which should be addressed. One quarter of all freshwater consumption wasted is simply way too much, especially considering the fact that we will encounter increased water shortage in the future.

The oil consumption sounds very high, but given the fact that the US uses approximately 19.5 billion barrels of petroleum per day, it's a very small percentage of the US consumption. Still, everything helps, and reducing this waste would be one step among many to reduce the US consumption of fossil fuel.

Also, as the abstract says, "methane and CO2 emissions from decomposing food, impacts global climate change". Since anthropogenic global warming probably is the most pressing issue of our times, any possible steps towards reducing AGW should be taken.

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