How Much Energy Do We Waste When We Throw Away Food?
Each year, the U.S. throws away 27 percent of its edible food. Not only could that wasted food feed 20 million hungry people each day; it also represents a tremendous waste of energy. According to one recent study, all of that thrown-away food consumes 350 million barrels of oil yearly, as determined by the cost of growing and processing it, packaging it, and shipping it.
That’s 2% of the energy we consume in total each year, which might not sound like a lot, but compared to the amount of energy at stake in respect to other conservation methods, it’s substantial.
Wasted milk, cheese and butter as well as that pesky produce rotting in refrigerators represent the biggest shares of the wasted energy. We also throw out as much as a third of all the fats and sugars we otherwise crave which, I suppose, keeps the obesity epidemic from being even worse than it is.
Of course, figuring out how to stop all this food waste is a complex policy question and beyond the scope of this particular study. But the research reveals that less profligate agricultural production could save more energy than we’d gain by producing ethanol or even opening new areas to offshore drilling.
Full study available here.
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