Environmental Impacts

The carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated at 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases, making food wastage the third top greenhouse gas emitter after the U.S. and China. Furthermore, that wasted food can occupy almost 1.4 billion hectares of land, representing nearly 30 percent of the world’s agricultural land area. Food wastage has a significant environmental impact with regard to landfills and pollution, the food production lifecycle, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, farming and the food system, and water.


Landfill and pollution

  • When wasted food is thrown away and breaks down in a landfill, together with other organic materials, it becomes the main contributor to the generation of methane – a gas 21 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Which contributes directly to climate change.


Greenhouse Gases

  • Greenhouse gases from human activities are the most significant driver of observed climate change since the mid-20th century.


Food Procution Lifecycle

  • Each time food is wasted, all of the resources that went into producing, processing, packaging, and transporting that food is also wasted. This means huge amounts of chemicals, energy, fertilizer, land and 25% of all freshwater in the U.S. is used to produce food that is thrown away.


Farming and the Food System

  • The food system represents a great part of our environmental footprint. If current trends in our population and consumption patterns continue, the world will need to produce about twice as much food by 2050, in a changing climate, with higher prices for energy, water and fertilizers.

farming graph


  • Freshwater is a global resource that is depleting whenever food is wasted.
  • It takes over 12,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Meanwhile, the largest percentage of food waste from the average American consists of meat products, and 33% ends up in a landfill.


Social Impacts of Food Waste/Loss

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How does food waste cause hunger?

Food waste at both the production and consumer levels contributes to worldwide hunger.

Underdeveloped nations are most affected by the loss of food at production levels. Because of inadequate technology and agricultural materials, as well as the unpredictable seasons associated with underdeveloped nations (like India), food is lost and people go hungry.

Developed nations are most identified by their food waste at the consumer level.  As Tim Fox, author of Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not said, “There is a terrible push to make consumers buy more than they need, through family-sized packaging and buy-one-get-one-free promotions.” As citizens of developed nations, most notably America, buy in bulk, food prices increase (greater demand = greater cost). This makes it even harder for the poor to buy food.

Did you know?

  • Almost 50 million people in the United States are hungry.
  • About one in nine people (globally) don’t have enough food to live a normal, healthy life.
  • America’s Second Harvest, a national food bank association, consisting of more than 200 food banks, reported the following statistics in 2008:
    • Incoming donations are down by 9%
    • The number of people coming to receive food donations has increased by 20%.

Here’s a thought: 

       The American Department of Agriculture estimates the just 5% less waste would feed 4 million people per day.

In America: 

       The National Institute of Health found that one quarter or America’s food waste could provide three meals per day for 43 million people.

To learn more about what is being done to address the issues of food waste and hunger, click here.