Consumer Food Waste: Environmental Impacts and Changing Course

Lead Author: Dr. Jim Bowyer

Publish date: 05.15.2019

Dovetail Partners Consuming Responsibly Report No.8
 

Executive Summary

 

Millions of tons of edible food are wasted around the world and in the U.S. each year. Although the issue of food waste has received considerable publicity in recent years, much less attention has been given to the environmental impacts of producing edible food that is subsequently not eaten. 

 

Food waste at the consumer level constitutes about twenty percent of total estimated food loss and waste; however, the loss of edible food once it reaches the intended ultimate consumer has a much higher environmental impact because all of the inputs required to produce, harvest, transport, process, and distribute food are embodied in food that reaches the consumer-level whether or not that food is eaten.

 

This report focuses on edible food waste that occurs on the part of individual consumers as a consequence of shopping habits, eating away from home, and preparing and storing food within the household. 

 

Based on an extensive review of literature regarding food loss and waste, and particularly household food waste in the United States, this report summarizes findings of environmental assessments of food waste at the consumer level. Suggestions as to how household food waste can be reduced are also provided.