30 to 50 percent of world's food thrown away
Hard data is still being collected, but experts at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago this week said an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of the food produced in the world goes uneaten.
The average American throws away 33 pounds of food each month -- about $40 worth -- according to the Natural Resources Defense
Council, which plans to publish a report on food waste in April.
In a year, that means each person throws away almost 400 pounds of food, the weight of an adult male gorilla.
The U.S. Department of
Agriculture estimates that 23 percent of eggs and an even higher percentage of produce ends up in the trash.
"We forget we have all these fresh fruits and vegetables, and at the end of the week we have to throw them away," said Esther Gove, a mother of three young children in South Berwick, Maine. "Now, I don't buy as much fresh produce as I used to."
Not sustainable if not eaten But the impact of food waste stretches far beyond the kitchen.
Agriculture is the world's largest user of water, a big consumer of energy and chemicals and major emitter of greenhouse
gases during production, distribution and landfill decay.
Experts say reducing waste is a simple way to cut stress on the environment while easing pressure on farmers, who will be called on to feed an expected 9 billion people around the world in 2050, versus nearly 7 billion today.
No matter how sustainable the farming is, if the food's not getting eaten, it's not sustainable and it's not a good use of our resources," Dana Gunders, a sustainable agriculture specialist at the NRDC, said at the Reuters Summit.
In richer nations, edible fruit and vegetables end up in landfills because they are not pretty enough to meet a retailer's standards, have gone bad in a home refrigerator or were not eaten at a restaurant.