How Much Food Does the Average American Throw Away?


Quick Answer

As of 2015, the United States throws away over 35 million tons of food each year, or about 220 pounds per person per year. That’s roughly 30 to 40 percent of the food that Americans buy.

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How Much Food Does the Average American Throw Away?
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Full Answer

Overbuying is a major cause of food waste. Grocery shoppers will often buy more perishable food than they need, and the leftover food goes bad (or they don’t eat leftovers). Surprisingly, many people throw out food that is perfectly fine because they don’t understand the dates on the packaging.

The hospitality and restaurant industry can also be a big source of food waste. Portions for meals have exploded since the 1980s and 1990s, making diners less likely to eat their entire meal or even take leftovers.

Most wasted food ends up in the trash, where it is the most common item in landfills. To pick up, ship and bury all of this food costs the United States about $750 million each year - using large amounts of freshwater, oil and many other valuable resources along the way.

Nearly 1 in 7 Americans rely on food banks, and much of the food that is wasted can be used to feed those in need - especially items that aren’t perishable or can be frozen.

There are many things you can do to reduce waste: making shopping lists and spending less on groceries (which helps save money), eating out at restaurants less frequently, composting, being mindful of real expiration dates, donating food and using leftovers in creative ways.

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