You might be in for a surprise. As it turns out, food waste is a much bigger problem than the packaging it arrives in, and it’s only getting worse. Here are 7 stunning facts that may change the way you look at plastic packaging:
- Almost 30% of world’s food never even reaches a plate. The U.S. alone wastes 50 million tons of food annually. Americans throw away up to 40% of the meat, poultry and seafood they buy.
- Saving just 25% of the world’s wasted food would be enough to feed all of the 800 million hungry and starving people on the planet. Eliminating all of the waste would feed 2 billion people.
- About 1/3 of all the food thrown away is discarded simply because of its appearance. Food can look wilted, tired, or faded long before it loses its taste, nutritional value or wholesomeness. This may be why half of all food loss in developed countries takes place in grocery stores, restaurants, and homes.
- About 94% of the food we throw out ends up in landfills or combustion facilities. As it decomposes, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
- When Americans waste food, they waste all the resources used to produce it—including 300 million barrels of oil, 25% of all freshwater consumption, and $160 billion per year. That rotten apple you threw away consumed fossil fuels at every stage of its production—from planting, irrigation and harvesting to storage, processing and transportation—all for nothing.
- If global food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world after China and the U.S. Imagine discarded food generating more emissions than India, Brazil or Saudi Arabia.
- Every ton of wasted food represents over 3 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Producing a ton of food can emit 3 times as much carbon dioxide as producing a ton of plastic packaging. If the food is wasted, all that carbon was added to the atmosphere
Fortunately, the food industry is taking this problem very seriously—for the sake of its own financial health, as well as for the health of the environment on. In the fight against food waste, plastic packaging has a job that almost nothing else can do. It protects food during transport. It keeps food looking fresher longer, so consumers are less likely to crinkle their noses at perfectly good produce. And it can double or even triple the life of perishable foods, so that much less of it ends up in a landfill pumping out methane.
It takes a lot more energy and carbon to produce food than it does to produce plastic packaging. So the next time you take out the garbage, worry less about the plastic packaging you used—and more about the food that spoiled because you didn’t use enough.