Food Waste–The Problems

  • We waste 25-50% of all food produced in the United States – around 133 billion pounds of food in the US in 2010.
  • More food reaches landfills and combustion facilities than any other single material in our everyday trash – >20% of the total trash.
  • When food goes to the landfill, the nutrients never return to the food web. The wasted food rots and produces methane gas.
  • Landfills are the second leading source of human-related methane emissions in the US, and over a 20-year period, one ton of methane has a global warming potential84 – 87X greater than carbon dioxide.
  • To understand the full environmental impact of food waste, consider not just the food itself, but also the resources required to grow, harvest, transport, and cook it.
  • Food waste accounts for about 8% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Impact of Change: Reducing food waste worldwide ranks at number 1 among 100 ways to reduce global carbon emissions, and is more effective than implementing rooftop solar power, offshore wind turbines, and electric vehicles combined.

At IMGC2023, we are:

  • Donating unserved, edible food to food pantries.
  • Composting both kitchen waste and plate waste from Convention Center meals.
  • Composing plate waste from local Pre-conference Tour lunches.

What you can do:

  • At IMGC:

    • Take right-sized servings from buffets to reduce plate waste.
    • Place your compostable food waste in designated containers at Pre-conference Tour lunches.
  • At home:

    • Use what you buy.
    • Store perishable items and leftovers at the front of the refrigerator so you see them, then make a plan to use them.
    • Use edible parts of food you normally might not eat: for example, turn stale bread into croutons or bread pudding, sauté beet greens for a side dish, shred broccoli leaf for slaw, and use vegetable scraps for soup stock. Pickle the stems from fennel and chard to use as salad toppings or on a charcuterie board.
    • Freeze, pickle, dehydrate, can, or make jam/jelly from surplus fruits and vegetables.
    • After reducing food waste as much as possible, then compost what’s truly inedible. Properly composted food waste (and yard waste) improves soil health and structure, improves water retention, supports plants, and reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides.


Bloom, J. American Wasteland, DeCapo Press, 2010.

Kantor et al., “Estimating and Addressing America’s Food Losses.”

Sustainable Management of Food Basics,

United States Department of Agriculture. The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States.

U.S. EPA “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, 1190-2007, 28.

“Methane Matters.” Earthobservatory.

Pimentel and Pimentel, “Energy Use in Food Processing for Nutrition and Development,” Cornell University.

Horrigan et al, “How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture,” Environmental Health Perspectives 110, no. 5, May 5, 2002.

Food Navigator, “US Wastes Half Its Food,” Nov 26, 2004.

Bonneau, A. The Zero-Waste Chef, pg 12.

Reduce Food Waste, Project Drawdown, 7/1/2020.

Table of Solutions,