Here’s a new research finding to chew on over the holidays: food waste per person in the United States has increased 50 percent since 1974. That’s 1400 calories of equivalent food waste every day, which adds up to 150 trillion calories a year.
The study, authored by researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, was recently published in the open access journal PLoS ONE. Researchers conducted a calculation of the difference between the U.S. food supply and what’s actually eaten, which was estimated by using a model of human metabolism and known body weights. According to the study, about 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. is thrown out.
The study also found that food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater consumption in the U.S. and more than 300 million barrels of oil per year.
To put all of this in context, consider a few equivalencies:
According to the CDC, Americans consume about 2600 calories a day on average. Based on that estimate, 1400 calories is roughly a meal and a half of food wasted every day (or a Big Mac meal with a large Coke, if you prefer).
According to the USGS, total freshwater consumption in the U.S totals about 350 million gallons per day. Based on that estimate, the present study indicates that food waste accounts for about 85 million gallons of water a day. That’s the equivalent of daily water use in the states of California and Texas combined.
300 million barrells of oil is about the equivalent of annual oil consumption in the state of New York, or a country the size of Singapore or Thailand.
Previous research indicated that more than 29 million tons of food is wasted in the U.S. each year, or enough to fill the Rose Bowl every three days, with a cost equivalent of more than $100 billion annually.