Ten Surprising Facts About U.S. Food Waste

Posted on March 18, 2016

In September 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency set a goal to reduce food waste 50 percent by 2030. While ambitious (yet achievable), this is an important target for the U.S., and the reasons why are highlighted in a recently released report.

ReFED, a collaboration of over thirty business, nonprofit, foundation and government leaders committed to reducing U.S. food waste, published A Roadmap To Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent. This report paints a stunning picture of the scale and consequence of lost and wasted food in the U.S., as highlighted below:


A look at the financial cost of U.S. food waste. ReFED, 2016.

1. The U.S. spends $218 billion a year, or 1.3% of GDP, growing, processing, and transporting food that is never eaten.
2. Annually, 52.4 million tons of food is sent to landfills.
3. It’s estimated that 10.1 million tons of food is discarded or left unharvested on farms and in packinghouses.
4. If all of the country’s wasted food was grown in one place, the farm would cover 80 million acres – three-quarters of the state of California.
5. The food on this farm would use an amount of water equivalent to water used in California, Texas and Ohio combined.
6. This farm would harvest enough food to fill a 40-ton tractor every 20 seconds.
7. One prevention solution mentioned by the report is the importance of an improved and robust cold chain to preserve the quality and freshness of perishable foods. Only 10 percent of perishable foods worldwide are refrigerated – which provides an opportunity for the U.S. and around the world.
8. Less than 5 percent of on-farm food is being recovered today. Increasing this percentage can help feed the food insecure in the U.S.
9. The report notes that there are four tools to action: financing, policy, innovation and education. We couldn’t agree more. United Technologies is proud to continue the global dialogue and educate others about the opportunities we have to waste less, feed more.
10. Consumer-facing businesses and homes represent more than 80 percent of all food waste. That’s why consumer education is critical. There are programs and solutions in place, including the USDA ‘FoodKeeper’ app that helps consumers maximize the storage life of foods and beverages in their homes.


A breakout of food wasted by weight in the U.S. ReFED, 2016.

The magnitude of food waste may seem overwhelming, but ReFED has highlighted some excellent solutions in their roadmap, including better packaging and food labeling education, strengthening the supply chain and developing food recovery plans to feed more people. With these actions, I believe the U.S. can meet the goal set by the USDA and EPA. Big goals lead to big results – and this roadmap provides a great plan to help meet them.

You can read the full report here: A Roadmap To Reduce U.S. Food Waste By 20 Percent.

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