The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have agreed to cut food waste by 50% in the next 15 years. This objective will be achieved in collaboration with several nonprofit organizations and private companies.
This is the first time in American history that federal authorities have set a target to reduce the amount of products that are discarded. Imposing such measures would reduce man-made pollution and also help address poverty.
“Let’s feed people, not landfills. Today’s announcement presents a major environmental, social and public health opportunity for the U.S.”, declared Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator.
Based on reports by the USDA, an average family of four throws away more than 2 million calories of food on an annual basis, corresponding to a value of approximately $1,500.
Every day, an average of 1,249 calories per American are discarded, and more than a quarter of these consists in added fats and oils (28%). Grain products represent 22%, added sugar and sweeteners correspond to a fifth of the daily loss, while meat products account for 12% of the total.
According to estimations, every year 133 billion pounds of food aren’t used, a quantity which would be “enough to fill the Sears Tower 44 times”.
Although the U.S. enjoys “the most productive and abundant food supply on earth”, 31% of it is wasted. This is particularly disturbing given the fact that approximately 50 million U.S. citizens have a limited access to adequate food.
14% of all households are affected by this food insecurity, which is caused by money problems and other resource shortages experienced throughout the year. Diminishing food waste by a mere 15% would help feed over 25 million people every year.
The need to regulate food losses is motivated also by the fact that it is strongly linked with protecting the environment. Landfills have large quantities of organic matter, which decomposes and releases methane gas. This contributes to the greenhouse effect, thus causing global warming to escalate.
There are several factors which have led to this excessive waste of food. One of them manifests itself in nearly every household, where some food is forgotten in the refrigerator until it becomes inedible. Similarly, other products are thrown away because they have passed their expiration date, although they are still safe to eat.
Food waste takes place even in farms, where fruit and vegetables that aren’t presentable enough aren’t harvested. Moreover, produce isn’t always adequately preserved, and therefore can no longer be shipped and consumed. Other culprits that generate significant food waste are restaurants and grocery stores.
There are certain measures which could address this issue, such as raising public awareness, donating food as part of EPA’s “Food Recovery Challenge”, using advanced technology for tracking sell-by dates more carefully, or encouraging grocery stores to accept and sell imperfect produce.
However, food waste will now be targeted more effectively, on a national scale, thanks to this historic partnership. The decision comes ahead of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, which will take place in New York between September 25 and September 27.
More than 150 world leaders will participate in the event, and will express their commitment to 17 goals which are essential for attaining 3 main objectives by 2030. The objectives on the agenda are the following: fixing climate change, ending extreme poverty and fighting injustice and inequality.
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