Food Waste in the U.S.

  • In the United States, about 40% of all food produced is lost or wasted, which is equivalent to about 133 billion pounds of food per year.
  • In the United States, food waste is estimated to cost about $160 billion per year
  • In the United States, food waste is estimated to account for about 25% of all freshwater usage, 50% of all land usage, and 20% of all methane emissions
    (Source: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill,“)

The US spends $1.3 billion annually disposing food waste into landfills.

  • Food loss represents significant amounts of money and other resources invested in food production, including land, fresh water, labor, energy, agricultural chemicals (e.g., fertilizer, pesticides), and other inputs to produce food that does not ultimately meet its intended purpose of feeding people (Buzby et al., 2011). For example, Webber (2012) estimates that food waste represents 2.5 percent of U.S. energy consumption per year, and Hall et al. (2009) estimate that the production of this wasted food required the expenditure of around 300 million barrels of oil and over 25 percent of the total freshwater consumed by agriculture in the United States. A more detailed understanding of the resource implications of food loss in the United States, including estimates of the land used to produce wasted food, is not available.
  • According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste accounted for 34 million tons (almost 14 percent) out of the 250 million tons of municipal solid waste in the United States in 2010 as measured before recycling (EPA, 2011) (see figure). Less than 3 percent of this food waste was recovered and recycled, with the remainder going to landfills or incinerators (EPA, 2011). In 2010, food waste cost roughly $1.3 billion to landfill (Schwab, 2013). After recycling some materials, such as paper and paperboard, food waste was the single largest amount of municipal solid waste categorized by EPA in 2010, with 21 percent of the total (see figure).
    (Source: USDA, “
    The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels (PDF)“)



Food Waste Globally

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN – Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction: “Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted. Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
  • The global economic value of food waste is estimated to be about $1 trillion per year.
    (FAO, “Food Loss and Waste”)



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