Food Waste: Impact on Environment

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food waste

Developing countries contribute to food waste during production.

Whereas developed countries lead to wastage while consuming food.

Around 125 to 160 billion of waste food is totally edible and contains plenty of nutrients for consumption.

However, it usually goes to waste because of overproduction, weather problems, buying and using more than needed.

When it goes to waste, it puts a strain on the resources and the environment plus causes food insecurity.

This article discusses how you can control the wastage of food and prevent it.

Keep reading to know, where the wastage begins and how you can reduce it to minimize food insecurity.

food waste sources

What Contributes to Food Waste?

Edible and nutritious food gets waste during all stages of production, distribution and consumption.

Hence it begins on:


Around 20 billion pounds of the produce goes to waste each year in the United States.

Some of this is because of overproduction.

Farmers grow more crops than they need because of pests and changes in weather.

So if any product is lost because of these reasons, they can have enough to make a living.

As food that is damaged by diseases, pests and weather conditions cannot be harvested.

Furthermore, market conditions during selling can lead to farmers throwing away food.

The product demands can fall over time.

Hence, there are conditions where their produce is more than what people need and want to purchase.

Also, if the cost of the labor and transportation is more than what their produce is selling for, they may prefer to not harvest it in the first place.

Farmers can face uncertain conditions like the Covid-19 pandemic.

This lead to huge wastage of food because restaurants and schools closed down.

Hence, farmers have to plow over perfectly fine crops and dump milk on them.

Furthermore, if the crops have imperfections look-wise then farmers have to waste that too.

The cosmetic imperfections such as misshape and blemishes do not appeal to the buyers.

Hence, they have to discard the edible crops when they cannot sell them because of how they look.

Moreover, insufficient refrigeration can rot food, hence they may lose it instead because of the scare of food safety.

Surprisingly immigration laws are also responsible for such loss.

The lack of labor can cause farmers to leave the crops on the field without harvesting them.

food waste at packaging

Packing and Manufacturing 

If the produce and crops do not meet the retailer and buyers’ cosmetic standards then they may not accept it.

Or if suppliers do, then it goes to processing.

However, it depends on the supplier if they will accept a large number of crops and there are fewer transportation costs.

Due to these costs, small farmers find it hard to send secondary items to the suppliers.

Hence, they may rather discard the secondary items.

When the crops enter the manufacturing and processing facilities, most food is lost there because of cutting edible portions.

‘These include crusts, skins, peels and fats.

Sometimes it completely goes to waste.

Other times it is used as animal feed on an animal farm.

Furthermore, technical problems, overproduction and damage to products cause produce to go to waste at manufacturing facilities.

Furthermore, these facilities are also affected by the loss of labor.

If there are fewer workers then meat processing units cannot work on slaughtering animals.

Hence, that leads to wastage.

Distribution and Retail Business

There is a chance of food loss while transporting and distributing.

This can occur because of a lack of refrigeration and proper infrastructure.

Hence, the distributors may reject produce spoils due to improper refrigeration.

Furthermore, distributors may reject perishable items.

These have short shelf lives but if a buyer rejects them, then they are simply thrown away.

Hence, they do not make it to the market.

Food rescue organizations may accept them as donations but these are usually quite large amounts to do so.

In retail businesses like grocery shops, major food loss occurs because of perishable items.

Meat, seafood, produced meals and baking items have a short shelf life.

The unsold fruits and vegetables alone contribute to a $15 billion loss in US retail markets.

Retail businesses and stores contribute to wastage due to:

  • oversized packages
  • cosmetic perfection of food items
  • damaged items
  • overstocked displays
  • seasonal items that become outdated when seasons change
  • prepared food staying in stock until they expire

Household food waste

Restaurants and Household 

Restaurants, schools, hospitals, hotels and such institutions produce food.

In fact, 4 to 10 percent of the food that reaches restaurants goes to waste before it gets to the customer.

Huge menu choices, large portions and inappropriate chain store management contribute to wastage in restaurants.

Moreover, people leave their meals uneaten when there are such huge portion sizes hence leading to edible leftovers.

Moreover, over-preparation of food, not using food scraps and trimming food excessively, plus improper storage of ingredients all contribute to wastage.

Other than that, certain trends like all-you-can-eat buffets sell large quantities of food which can regularly go waste.

Though, the largest wastage comes from households.

In fact, they waste up to 76 billions pound of food yearly in the United States alone.

Fresh vegetables and fruits account for the greatest loss at consumer loss.

If they rot because they stay uneaten then they go to waste.

Plus dairy products, meat and seafood are also largely wasted.

One of the main reasons is food spoilage.

It happens because of:

  • Not eating food before it rots
  • Partially using ingredients
  • Not storing food properly
  • Unable to see what’s in your refrigerator clearly
  • Overbuying resulting in not using the items

Other than that, there is overpreparing of food items whereby food wastage occurs because of large portion size.

You cannot usually finish the large portion size resulting in wasting it.

Furthermore, you may not plan properly regarding what you want to buy.

This results in poor planning and impulse buying of whatever you think you may need but may not need.

Hence, causing spoilage again.

Also, people get confused about expiry dates.

If they confuse the manufacturing date with the expiry one, then they may discard perfectly fine edible items.

Hence, all these activities are eventually leading to waste which has a detrimental environmental impact.

More on that below!

composting impact on environment

How Food Waste Impacts the Environment?

Uneaten food wastage is the largest contributor to waste.

Only 5 percent of this is used in composting.

Though as this food enters landfills it breaks down to form greenhouse gases.

Methane is detrimental to the environment as it can result in global warming and climate change.

Besides that, if landfills produce methane then you are just contributing to worse climatic impact.

However, if you compost food, it will come in handy to improve soil fertility.

Furthermore, household food loss contributes to energy waste in the food supply chain and farm losses.

For instance, it wastes pesticides, fertilizers and labor, land and energy alongside the finances that go into producing food.

Moreover, it is also responsible for freshwater pollution.

According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), a third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste.

This is alarming because this much food can remove food insecurity and help feed several people.

Plus, if you waste more, then you spend more too on trash pickup and buying the products you may waste.

There are several ways to manage food instead of wasting it.

These are sustainable food management practices. Let’s find about them in detail below.

sustainable management of wastage

How to Reduce Losses- Sustainable Management


In retail business, distribution, packaging and processing there are many edible and nutritious food items.

However, due to overproduction, many of those will not reach customers or buyers may not purchase a large quantity.

Hence, food is safe to consume and healthy, then you can donate it to the needy.

There are about 805 million people who are hungry.

Decreasing food losses and ensuring equal distribution will help reduce this food insecurity.

You can donate to your nearby communities or organizations.

Furthermore, recovering waste food, processing and donating it also creates jobs, strengthening the economy.


Turning into Compost and Animal Feed 

Turning leftover food into feed for animals can help save the resources that are used to feed animals.

Moreover, it will not let the food go to waste.

As long as the leftovers are edible and nutritious they can become a good feed for animals.

Besides that, composting can help make your soil more fertile.

Plus, you will not need to especially find material for composting rather use the food wastage.

Composting not only improves the fertility of the soil but also improves water retention.

Moreover, it facilitates the growth of native plants and reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers.

Neither will this waste go to landfills contributing to greenhouse gas production.

Produce Industrial Products 

Leftovers and food scraps can be useful in making bio-fuels and liquid fertilizers.

Moreover, using leftovers in one industry is beneficial food scraps for another.

reducing food waste

Reduce Production 

The most sustainable way to reduce waste is to control the amount of food production in million tons.

Overproduction will naturally lead to more waste.


You can curtail food waste by not buying excessively and reducing portion size.

It is the responsibility of every human to achieve sustainable management food goals in these times.

Hence, play your part in reducing food waste.


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