The impact of food waste

The Problem: food waste

The impact of food waste is not just financial.

Environmentally, food waste leads to wasteful use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides; more fuel used for transportation; and more rotting food, creating more methane – one of the most harmful greenhouse gases.

In the US alone, over 40% of landfill content is food waste and methane is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

The vast amount of food going to landfills makes a significant contribution to global methane emissions. Composting is an excellent way to utilize food waste but the problem is time, space and labor to correctly process this food waste as it takes weeks or months to properly compost food waste.

Oregon, as an example, has banned compost sites so food waste has to be hauled long distances to other states and many composters have so much compost it makes the return on investment questionable.


  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion TONS – gets lost or wasted.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million TONS) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million TONS).
  • The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion TONS in 2009/2010).
  • Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labor and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • In the United States 30% of all food, worth US$48.3 billion (€32.5 billion), is thrown away each year. It is estimated that about half of the water used to produce this food also goes to waste, since agriculture is the largest human use of water. (Jones, 2004 cited in Lundqvist et al., 2008)
  • In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions.

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