Food waste for the past several years has spiraled upward; the United States Environmental Protection Agency recently stated that just the US trashes a whopping “133 billion pounds” almost every year. To put this in a easier perspective that’s the equivalent of about 15,647,058,823 gallons of milk when using the average weight of a gallon of milk. The wastage of our food is negatively impacting a variety of areas but the most affected area is the environment. The major negative impacts of food wastage in the environment are the severe air pollutants released from the food in landfills and the over usage of natural resources used in the production of our food specifically land and water.
From the start of the food supply chain to the end there is food products being wasted when they do not meet certain physical and aesthetic criteria when harvested, when damaged during distribution, and when consumers buy in bulk but don’t actually eat the large portions. The wasted food in turn ends up landfills creating piles of food waste where decay occurs and the lack of oxygen and microorganisms break down the waste into a different form of matter in this case air pollutant gases like methane and carbon dioxide. Air Pollution from the wasted food products just in the US according to the United States Environmental protection agency makes for “18%” of the overall emitted methane gas originating from landfills with decomposing foods. Methane emissions is only one of the greenhouse gases that makes up for “50%” of the pollutants emitted from landfills but the agency further adds that this greenhouse gas is more concentrated than carbon dioxide; methane gas is “28 to 36 times” better at conducting the greenhouse effect and lasts longer in our planet’s atmosphere. Carbon Dioxide makes up the other “50%” of the gases originating from large landfills with wasted food products which in turn contributes to the greenhouse effect. In the bigger picture it is not just the US that is being affected by the greenhouse effect, for the effects of these greenhouse gases are affecting the globe, and it has already been established that greenhouse gases contribute a major role in the planet’s climate. The greenhouse gases hold the capability of creating warmth for the planet by holding infrared radiation which in turn would not create a dilemma if there is not a large increase of these gases, but if the amount of food wastage increases like it has been the emissions as a result could grow since food waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA stated that the 16% of methane emissions from landfills was accountable for 10% of the total greenhouse gas emissions and CO2 accounted for 81.6% of the total greenhouse gases just in 2016. According to the group of scientific researchers containing Kevin D. Hall , Juen Guo, Michael Dore, Carson C. Chow they discovered “US per capita food waste has progressively increased by €?50% since 1974”.
Another area of the environment negatively impacted by food waste is our natural resources like fresh water and land. Due to many food products requiring raw resources like water and land when food is wasted and sent to landfills we are also wasting the sources that were used to produce the food. The group of scientific researchers also stated that “Food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater consumption” in the US. One group of researchers from various universities in Europe found that globally 25% of food that is grown is thrown away in production, distribution, and consumption ; the researchers further mentioned that the 25% makes up almost a quarter of the water that used to grow the products. The water used in growing the foods is not the only water being wasted after harvesting producers tend to wash the products with water and once distributed retailers will also tend to display them under water misting systems. Consumers might also be using water again to wash the food products before consuming or preparing to be cooked and if wasted all the water used on the is also being thrown away.
Water is not the only resource being wasted when wasting food because land is additionally used in the enormous amounts of food produced it is creating an over occupation of land. The group of researchers from various universities in Europe claim that “1.53 billion hectares” of earth’s land is already occupied by crops and if more is to be occupied it will involve degradation of the environment. In the continuous expansion of cropland there is a rendering that involves making the land suitable for the crops which in turn can negatively impact habitats and their biodiversity. The new cropland may no longer be suitable to sustain the species that once was present in that habitat. The over occupation in turn can create a depletion of soil which holds the nutrients necessary for the growth of other plants aside from crops. This continuous need for more land might continue to be an issue since populations sizes are predicted to increase the researchers from Europe cite the UN and state that “In the future, food production will also be affected by both projected increases in population in many regions (UN, 2011)”. It’s only logical that with food production being affected by the population increasement the demand for the land needed to produce it might increase.
Although though the dilemma of food waste might be to complex to complete solve entirely there is potential relief that can be administered to the specific issues it poses in the environment. One way to diminish effects of the emission of landfill gases or LFG like methane and carbon dioxide is the conversion of these gases into renewable energy. To elaborate on this the gas can be processed into forms of commonly used energy sources like electricity, or processed into a fuel so that it may be utilized instead of other fuels. The EPA mentions that only ” About three-fourths of currently operational projects in the United States generate electricity from LFG” but the issue with this is that this is only 75% of the US and the environmental effects are global so to relive this we might want to exponentially expand the amount of projects we convert to this energy . The EPA further adds that “Directly using LFG to offset the use of another fuel (for example, natural gas, coal or fuel oil) occurs in about one-fourth of the currently operational projects. LFG can be used directly in a boiler, dryer, kiln, greenhouse or other thermal application.” which does pose as a solution but it holds the same issue as the previous solution the agency mentioned and would require them same form of relief. In regards to impacts on natural resources like water and land a switch to a more efficient food supply chain might be of some help but would more than likely require political or federal actions which would could take a large period of time. In the end though enacting regulations that limit the production specifically of the most overproduced products could alleviate this issue. One important consideration is bringing awareness to individuals about the wastage of food having a direct link with the wastage of resources like land and water he or she might then reconsider whether not to buy a product in bulk for cheap and later possibly having to trash it.
Individuals should realize the general importance of food products before wasting them and that these valuable commodities that are being thrown away are used to feed and nourish us individuals. It’s important to know that these food products themselves are a source that individuals need on a daily basis. When these valuable foods go wasted or thrown away there are consequences like wasting the resources that when into making the food we eat and polluting the air from rotting food in our landfills. Individuals be warned that the emissive wastage of our food products has detrimental impacts on the environment.