America Wastes Nearly Half Its Food

Energy in wasted foodstuffs dwarfs that in the BP oil spill

Thursday, October 14, 2010

In today’s tough economic times, we frequently talk about conserving energy, cutting down on waste and living more frugally.

Despite these good intentions, a new study in the American Chemical Society's journal indicates that the food Americans throw out or leave in fields to rot wastes the equivalent of 350 million barrels of oil a year. That's about 70 times the amount of oil in the BP Gulf oil spill.

Jonathan Bloom is the author of a new book called “American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly of its Food, and What We Can Do About It.”

He talks with us about how we became so wasteful, where the wasted food goes, and how we can try to improve things.



Jonathan Bloom

Comments [6]


Genn--where do I say I waste? I specifically said I ALWAYS take home leftovers, but that I do not enjoy the foam containers.

What do other people care? I could be asked by the restaurant to not bring my own containers. I could have embarrassed friends and family members refuse to go out to eat with me, and/or lambaste me until it's not worth it to bring my own containers. Most people would probably find it "weird" and tacky. Maybe that's your idea of a good time. It's not mine.

Oct. 15 2010 08:30 PM

Katia- what should you care what other people think if you bring your own food containers? You seem to be making excuses for wasting ...

(I've heard some people say they bring their own tupperware, but I can't see that as being well-received by the restaurant OR one's dining companions).

Oct. 15 2010 09:07 AM

I happen to like large portions. That means I get to take home leftovers and have something nice in the fridge to look forward to later. The only thing I don't like is the proliferation of foam boxes, but I've yet to find a better alternative (I've heard some people say they bring their own tupperware, but I can't see that as being well-received by the restaurant OR one's dining companions).

People need to get into a "no waste" mindset. I've worked a hotel dinner, have worked at restaurants..I'm amazed by what people waste. I was disgusted the one time I temped at a hotel dinner...people would take one bite of something, such as a piece of cake for dessert, and leave the rest (or not touch it at all). If you know you won't eat it, why not say "no thanks, don't give it to me"? Same goes for if you don't like tomatoes and know the sandwich comes with them--simply ask them to leave the tomatoes off rather than picking them off and throwing them away. I don't like onions but I usually scarf them down anyway if my request for no onions is accidentally skipped or I didn't realize the item came with onions, because I hate to waste them. And why do people put lemon slices in their water, then toss them? You can tell they didn't even squeeze the lemon to get the juice out, so what was the point?

Restaurants also shouldn't include things automatically. At the cafe I used to work with, some food came with a pickle on the side. I'd say at least half of those pickles got thrown away. Same went for chips sometimes. Why not just ask if a person wants those things to begin with? (Though I know plenty of people who would say "but I paid for it" and they'd rather take something they know they have no intention of eating, and throw it away, than not get it, because of that 25 cents it must've cost.)

Oct. 14 2010 10:07 PM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

Because of the resources it takes to grow, process, transport, and market, wasting food is...

wasting water
(water footprints-virtual water:


wasting energy

Peg - I know that stuff is cheap for the U.S. now, but who's to say that everything that is will remain the same? For some reason, I think that constraintts on natural resources will become more dear over time, not less.

Oct. 14 2010 09:33 AM

Compared to the rest of the world, for Americans, food is cheap, gas is cheap, "stuff" is cheap and life is cheap.

Why shouldn't Americans waste them??????

Oct. 14 2010 09:20 AM
Patricia from FH

When my family of three (husband, son and I) go out to dinner to a chain restaurant (like Friday's), we share an appetizer and an entree. We do this because we know the portions are huge, there's no way we could finish all the food if we each ordered an entree.

As for leftovers, my husband cooks just about every night. He and I take left overs for lunch. It's great! We save money and don't throw away food.

Oct. 14 2010 09:01 AM

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