Organic Consumers Association

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Food Waste Produces Some Ugly Numbers

A 2008 study found that about 30 percent of the food produced annually in the United States is thrown into the garbage.The Industrial Revolution brought unprecedented economic prosperity to the United States, but it also ushered in an age of disposability. The past lack of knowledge, and in more recent cases willful ignorance, of the environmental impact of our waste and wastefulness has left a wide and deep environmental scar on the planet, especially in coastal and watershed areas such as Rhode Island.

This presents a complex problem with, for the most part, complex solutions to our society, which leads to an oft-heard cliché in ecological restoration circles that there is "no silver bullet" that could solve all of these problems.

While this tired turn of phrase may be true, the simple act of diverting food waste from landfills could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels - foreign or otherwise - enhance our wastewater treatment abilities, help re-regionalize and strengthen our agricultural infrastructure, and depending on how the scraps were handled after collection, could lower our energy costs, bolster local agriculture and extend the life of our landfill.

Food loss occurs at all stages in the food production system. At the farm level, losses are attributed to pre-harvest losses due to weather, disease and predation, harvest losses attributed to mechanization, production practices and decisions, and storage losses due to insects, mold, deterioration, shrinkage and spoilage.

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