The EPA has made "Food Recovery" the theme for this year's Earth Day. Food recovery is the reduction of wasted food and its associated environmental impacts over the entire life cycle, starting with extraction of natural resources and manufacturing, sales and consumption and ending with decisions on recycling or final disposal.
Wasted food is a growing problem in our modern society. The amount of food Americans throw away each year is incredible. In 2013 alone, more than 37 million tons of food waste was generated, with only five percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting. EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, constituting 21 percent of discarded municipal solid waste. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that Americans wasted over one third of the vegetables and fruit bought in 2010.
While this may seem like a problem that is too large to handle, taking simple steps in your everyday life can make a difference in reducing this issue. Reducing wasted food is a triple win; it's good for the environment, for communities, and for the economy.
To help battle food waste, the EPA has created a guide: The Food Recovery Hierarchy. This guide prioritizes actions we can take to prevent and divert wasted food. Each tier of the Food Recovery Hierarchy focuses on different management strategies for your wasted food. The top levels of the hierarchy are the best ways to prevent and divert wasted food because they create the most benefits for the environment, society and the economy.
Want more information? Check out the EPA's website. By working together, we can start to reverse the negative impacts and leave the Earth a cleaner place for future generations.
How We Science is moderated and edited by the staff of the Natural Resources Trust of Easton.