Pollution Due to Food Waste in America
Picture the food inside of your refrigerator: the moldy bread, the expired cheese, and don’t forget the mayonnaise way in the back you totally forgot you bought last year. If you’re like most people you’ll try to eat the least moldy pieces of bread and end up throwing the rest out. You wouldn’t even try with the mayonnaise. Most people store leftovers and end up forgetting about them until they smell them which often means it’s no good anymore. The food that isn’t being consumed has one destination: the trash. After being thrown away into the trash it will go straight into a landfill that will further pollute our environment. People throw food away without a second thought about what will happen to it or what it will do to our environment. For example, Chicago alone wastes 55 million pounds of food every month which goes straight into landfill and the gases emitted go straight into the air we breathe (Medill News Service). Food waste is a big issue facing our country in the past years because it has been accumulating for so long that the atmosphere cannot handle all the methane being released by the waste. Methane, is a greenhouse gas more toxic than carbon dioxide which when released in excess amounts into the atmosphere will cause global warming and climate change (The Environmental Impact of Food Waste).
The growing amount of food waste since 2012, which was 35 million tons, also contributes the increased amount of food being made. Food production factories and farms produce harmful greenhouse gases as well when they make food products and they produce even more gases when food is being wasted due to the higher demand. The main destination factories are sending their food to are grocery stores and billions of pounds of food get wasted from grocery stores every year. This includes food discarded off the shelves and rejected crops from the produce farm. Grocery stores post expiration dates and sell-by dates on their food which often mislead customers to not buy after the date which is a misconception of most foods. Customers not buying these products push the store owners to throw out the product before the sell by date which is an unnecessary waste of food (Wilhelm).
There are many solutions to the problems of food waste such as aerobic composting. Aerobic composting is a natural and simple way to decrease amounts of greenhouse gas emissions from food waste in America. In houses all throughout the country families can take the composted food waste and put it in their garden or flowers. There are different types of solutions for different types of venues. The amount of greenhouse gas emissions due to food waste in America has to be decreased by 50 percent by 2030 to make sure America is sustained as a liveable country and we need to help by making solutions into actions to make this change possible (United States 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal).
Food production factories are giving releasing greenhouse gases in more ways than one. Factories use agriculture to produce the materials needed for the food which causes deforestation due to the land they need to use for harvesting. In the factory, they have machines that actually make the food and store the food such as storage and refrigeration. The energy needed to power these heavy machine at a fast pace comes from energy plants that are harmful for the environment. Energy is used in many ways throughout food production,the most being through process heating which raises the temperature of machines thus polluting the environment that much more (Business Energy Advisor).
Once the food is made it is packaged and gets ready to be shipped to a grocery store or warehouse. More often than not, the food is transported in a truck or ship. Transportation is the highest contender in greenhouse gas emissions in America (Business Energy Advisor). This is due to the fact that our cars, trucks and ships run on fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel (Greenhouse Gas Emissions). Again process heating is problem in the pollution factor because transportation is 48% process heating which is causes by the fuel burning in the vehicle of transport.
Grocery stores label the products with a sell-by date and expiration date which often misleads many customers. Expiration and sell-by dates should be taken as a guideline for many products because they are good well past the date listed (Petronzio). After customers buy these products they often don’t finish it or forget they have it and when they realize they read the expiration date and assume it’s no good and throw it out. The misconception about these labels contributes to food waste because if people know the food isn’t expired the food wouldn’t be wasted and all the effort and pollution taken to create it wouldn’t be for nothing. Throwing the food out because of the misconception that it was expired causes people to re-buy it which causes more production of the food which leads to more pollution. Grocery store food waste also includes food discarded off the shelves and rejected crops from the produce farm. Customers not buying “expired” products push the store owners to throw out the product before the sell by date which is an unnecessary waste of food (Wilhelm). This entire chain is created just because of an expiration date on a label which does not prove to be true.
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency residential homes are the leading cause of food waste in 2014 (see table above). In homes all throughout the country, millions of tons of food gets wasted each year which emits methane in landfills nationwide. If this trend continues America will never reach its goal of greenhouse gas reduction by 2030. To be able to reach this goal people need to realize that most of the food being thrown out is compostable. That banana peel always thrown into the trash without being given a second thought can be put in grass or bushes so that the garden can flourish and so can the environment.
Changing the means of food transportation can bring the greenhouse gas emission of transportation down immensely. Transporting food by electric train is much more efficient than fossil fuel transportation because it emits much less carbon dioxide and gets the food to its destination faster than by road which leads to even less emission. Transporting more food in one trip can decrease pollution as well because the energy has to come from somewhere from electric trains so piling more food into it can be helpful is decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. The only challenge that remains is how to get this number down to zero because electricity companies also are very damaging to the economy so electric trains also aren’t completely eco-friendly.
Decreasing food waste can also be done by educating people on the false notion about expiry dates and sell-by dates that food is good well past the date as long as no mold or mildew has developed (Eat By Date). Factories can also post the actual date of expiry instead of posting an earlier date as a consumer tactic. Doing a simple google search as buyers can also help with this problem for many people because dairy products people don’t feel like taking a risk on. For example the fridge life of cheese is two months whereas the majority of sell-by dates list it as one month. Educating people and factories about these solutions will contribute to the decrease of pollution by food waste so that America is able to reach its goal by 2030.
Many people don’t realize that the things people eat can also be helping to be more sustainable. Studies show the carbon footprint of meat eaters is twice as much as vegetarians due to the amount of food that is compostable and amount of energy used in production (Plumer).
This is due to the fact that meat is not compostable whereas most vegetable and vegetable skins are. Change in diet can have a huge impact on the environment just for those factors alone since food production is responsible for 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Meat takes more energy to produce because of slaughterhouses and animals also tend to emit methane when slaughtered (Plumer). Now the solution isn’t to go vegan, even though they have the smallest carbon footprint, even eating less meat shows to have a greater positive impact on the environment. More meat equal more bones which also release methane when broken down so eating less meat contributes to less food waste.
In conclusion, many factors contribute to the food waste pollution in America, not just tossing food into the trash. Food waste in general releases methane but it also leads to the further production and transportation of food which release greenhouse gases as well. Decreasing food imported and exported will help decrease the amount of damage food waste is doing to the environment. Instead of buying imported food from big commercial stores many people take up growing food in their own homes. By growing their own food people decrease their carbon footprint due to the sustainability of gardening and change in diet. Change in diet is not only a healthy change in lifestyle it is also eating food that are easily compostable and biodegradable that can be used in soil for their garden.