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Food Waste In America Statistics

25 Concerning Food Waste Statistics in America

Last Updated on July 15, 2024 by Shari Mason

The United States throws away a **staggering** volume of food, matching **130 billion meals** or more than **$408 billion**. Although efforts are made to rescue **3.6 billion pounds** of food every year, the country still squanders a **massive 119 billion pounds** of food.

Keep reading to know more about food waste in America – statistics and up-to-date details. 

Food Waste in America Quick Summary 

Man Throwing Garbage
  • The waste collection services industry is projected to achieve a 1.1 percent annualized market growth from 2018 – 2023, making its total market size worth at least $73.7 billion in 2023.
  • Each American wastes about 219 pounds or more than 650 average-sized apples, taking up 22 percent of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the US landfills.
  • According to research, people with healthier diets with high consumption of vegetables and fruits tend to be the most wasteful because these foods are more frequently thrown out.
  • According to Waste Not, approximately 40% of food is wasted annually in Arizona, while almost one million Arizonians suffer hunger.
  • Approximately $161 billion to $218 billion of food is discarded annually in the US.
  • An average American family with at least four members wastes at least $1,500 – $1,600 in food yearly. 
  • America ranks third in the top 10 countries that generate the most food waste, discarding more than 19 million tons of food every year. 
  • Michigan has the highest amount of waste thrown out in landfills, with at least 66.5 tons of food waste per person.
  • Roughly 35% or 93 million kilograms (204 million pounds) of edible turkey meat end up in landfills. 
  • Food waste and yard trimmings make up more than a third (33.7%) of US garbage. 
  • Shrink-wrapping food produce helps to reduce food waste by increasing its shelf life.
  • 43 percent or about 21 million tons (42 billion pounds) of food is wasted in homes, almost similar to the amount of food wasted in restaurants and grocery stores.

Top 25 Food Waste in the US Facts & Statistics

1. In the United States, food waste is estimated at around 30-40 percent of the food supply.

infographics about percentage of food waste in the US

The United States wastes about 40 million – 80 billion pounds of food every year, equalling around 30 – 40 percent of its food supply. 

Each American wastes about 219 pounds or more than 650 average-sized apples, taking up 22 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the US landfills. [1

2. Americans waste 150,000 tons of food daily, equal to a pound per person.

About 150,000 tons of food is thrown out in US households each day, equivalent to a pound of food waste per American.

According to research, people with healthier diets with high consumption of vegetables and fruits tend to be the most wasteful because these types of foods are more frequently thrown out. [2

High-quality diets were associated with increased food waste and were found to use up more water and pesticides. [3

3. Arizona is the US state that has the most food waste. 

According to Feeding America, one (1) in nine (9) Arizonians face hunger. [4

However, Waste Not reported that at least 40% of food is wasted in Arizona every year, while almost one million Arizonians suffer hunger. 

Moreover, according to Jeff Herman, a spokesperson of Imperial Western Products, the lack of consciousness about food waste sends more than 78% of food to the Arizona landfill. [5

Top 15 States With The Most Food Waste (2022)

StateOverall ScoreFood Wasted RankRepurposed Food RankMitigation Efforts Rank
Arizona82.914117
North Dakota78.131238
Hawaii77.5416212
Nevada77.121177
Oklahoma76.681566
West Virginia75.791984
Wisconsin75.735424
Georgia74.961320
Montana74.3325910
South Dakota7433101

*Disclaimer: All 50 states were ranked, but we only reflected the top 10 states with the highest number of food waste.

4. Annual food waste in the United States is worth at least $161 billion. 

infographics about the annual food waste in the US

Approximately $161 billion to $218 billion of food is discarded annually in the US. 

Thus, an average American family with at least four members wastes at least $1,500 – $1,600 in food yearly. 

If you multiply one family’s food waste amount by the typical 18 years that a child stays at home, it could cover at least a year’s worth of tuition at any university or college in America. 

5. America ranks 3rd in food waste, next to China and India. 

America ranks third in the top 10 countries that generate the most food waste, discarding more than 19 million tons of food every year. 

China bagged first place with 91 million tons and India with more than 68 million tons of food waste. [6]

Top 10 Countries That Generate The Most Food Waste (2023) 

CountryGross Amount Of Food Waste PopulationRank
China91 million tons1,425,671,3521
India68 million tons1,428,627,6632
United States19 million tons339,996,5633
Japan8 million tons123,294,5134
Germany6 million tons83,294,6335
France5 million tons64,756,5846
United Kingdom5 million tons67,736,8027
Russia4 million tons144,444,3598
Spain3 million tons47,519,6289
Australia2 million tons26,439,11110

6. The waste collection services industry in America had a market size of 68 billion US dollars in 2022. 

America’s waste collection services industry market size experienced a growth rate of 2.3 percent between 2017 and 2022. Now, the industry has a whopping market size of $68 billion. [7]

The waste collection services industry is projected to achieve a 1.1 percent annualized market growth from 2018 – 2023, making its total market size worth at least $73.7 billion in 2023. [8]

7. More than 80 percent of Americans throw perfectly good food because they misunderstand expiration labels. 

Due to misinterpreting expiration labels, more than 80 percent of Americans discard good food, increasing the size of US landfills. 

Most often, labels such as “sell by” and “best if used by” are misunderstood, making most consumers think they equate to being expired. 

However, according to research conducted in the UK, if these types of labels were federally regulated and food date labels were standardized, household food waste could be reduced by at least 20%.

8. Half a pound of food is wasted per meal in restaurants.

infographics about the food waste in restaurants

According to reports, whether it’s from a customer’s plate or the kitchen, at least half a pound of food is wasted per meal in restaurants.

Shockingly, at least 85% of food is thrown out, while only a small percentage is donated or recycled.  

Furthermore, the National Restaurant Association [9] reported that, on average, a restaurant loses four to 10 percent of the food they purchase, which cuts the restaurant’s costs by at least 2 to 6 percent. 

9. About 21-33% of water across US farms is wasted. 

When food is unconsumed and ends up in a landfill, the amount of water to produce it is wasted, too. 

Approximately 21 to 33 percent of water across US farms is wasted every year since agriculture is responsible for 80 percent of all water consumed throughout the country.

10. Michigan leads the US with at least 66.5 tons of waste in landfills per person.

Michigan has the highest amount of waste thrown out in landfills, with at least 66.5 tons of food waste per person. Indiana follows it with 59.9 tons and Pennsylvania with 57.4 tons per person.

Top 10 States With The Highest Food Waste In Landfills Per Person (2022)

StateTons of Waste in Landfills per Person
Michigan66.5 tons
Indiana59.9 tons
Pennsylvania57.4 tons
Illinois54.8 tons
Ohio52.4 tons
Wisconsin51.8 tons
California50.4 tons
Nevada48.4 tons
Colorado47 tons
Kentucky46.8 tons

11. Food waste takes up more space in US landfills than anything else.

According to Food and Drug Administration, EPA estimates that at least 24 percent of municipal solid waste is food waste. [10]

12. 35% of edible turkey ends up in trash bins on Thanksgiving. 

infographics about the percentage of edible food in trash bins

Roughly 35% or 93 million kilograms (204 million pounds) of edible turkey meat end up in landfills. 

According to The US Department of Agriculture [11], there’s at least a 25 percent increase in discarded food in the country because of unsold supplies at supermarkets and uneaten leftovers during the holiday season. 

13. Each year, the average American throws away nearly 100 kilograms (219 pounds) of food.

Reports say that the average American discards nearly 219 pounds or 100 kilograms of food annually. This amount of food waste is equivalent to 120 billion meals (at least $408 billion), almost 40% of America’s food supply [12], or around 365 million pounds of food being wasted per day. [13]

14. The United States generates approximately 119 million tons (238 billion pounds) of food waste, the equivalent of over 528,000 Statue of Liberties.

In 2018, about 206 billion pounds or 103 million tons of food waste was generated in the US, equivalent to over 450,000 Statue of Liberties.

America’s food waste tripled in just five decades, estimated to be 30 to 40 percent of its total food supply. Now, the US generates roughly 119 million tons (238 billion pounds) of food waste.

15. The average American family of four throws out $1,500 worth of food per year.

At least $1,500 – $1,600 worth of food is wasted annually by the average American family of four. It’s equivalent to 1,250 calories per person per day. This estimate doesn’t even include the recent food price inflation.

Unfortunately, at least 35% of the total food supply, or 80.6 million tons, is wasted across all sectors. [14]

16. The total number of food-insecure Americans is expected to rise up to more than 50 million in 2022. 

Only 37 million people and 11 children across the US had food insecurity before the pandemic. However, it’s expected to rise up to more than 50 million by the end of 2022. 

According to Feeding America, one in six Americans has food insecurity, which can rise further in the coming years. 

17. Up to 40 percent of the food in America is never eaten.

infographics about the percentage of food in the US that never eaten

At least 35 – 40 percent of the total food supply in America is never eaten, which means that 40 percent of what every American buys ends up in the garbage. 

According to the FDA, food is the single largest material in municipal landfills and represents wasted nourishment that could have helped feed families in need. [15]

18. Food waste and yard trimmings make up more than a third (33.7%) of US garbage. 

At least 33.7 percent, or more than a third of the US landfill, is comprised of yard trimmings and food waste. Some of these wastes are organic, and they can be easily composted.  

However, the US lacks sufficient infrastructure to compost and recycle materials such as paper and paperboard, which makes up at least 23.1 percent or a quarter of America’s trash.

 19. According to the EPA, the average American person will produce about 5.91 pounds of trash, with about 1.51 pounds being recycled.

EPA claims that the average American produces roughly 5.91 pounds of trash, but only 4.40 pounds is a person’s average daily waste. And only 1.51 pounds of the trash is recycled.

An average American throws out approximately 220.96 pounds of food waste in a year. 

Hence, if the collective amount of trash Americans produce annually is about 254 million tons and only about 34.3 percent of the trash is recycled, the average American produces at least 1,361.4 pounds of trash, just about a grizzly bear’s weight!

20. America is home to only 4% of the world’s population but is responsible for 12% of the planet’s trash. 

America may only be just about 4 percent of the world’s population, but it makes up at least 12 percent of the world’s trash.

Fortunately, the US decided to change this unfortunate stance. The US decided to embrace the concept of zero waste. Many US states decided to join the war, like New York, San Diego, and San Francisco, aiming to break the trash-to-landfill cycle completely by 2040 or sooner. [16]

21. Food Waste in America is equivalent to Greenhouse emissions of 37 million cars. 

infographics about the food waste in the US

Food waste emits methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 28 to 36 times more potent than the carbon dioxide most vehicles emit, making landfills the third largest industrial methane emitter.

With 30-40 percent of food waste in landfills, America generates greenhouse emissions equivalent to at least 42 coal-fired power plants or 37 million cars. 

22. Shrink-wrapping food produce helps to reduce food waste by increasing its shelf life.

It’s quite difficult to imagine that one way to combat waste is through plastic – which most environmentally people find bad for the environment.

According to Greenbiz, shrink-wrapping food can reduce food waste by preventing spoilage and prolonging the food’s shelf life. [17]

Greenbiz also reported that the authors of a study concluded that the environmental benefit of food waste reduction due to plastic wrapping the cucumbers was 4.9 times higher than the negative environmental impact due to the packaging itself. [18]

23. The size of your fridge can impact the amount of food you waste.

As refrigerators get bigger, people buy more food. [19] The larger your fridge is, the more amount of food you tend to waste. 

According to Evans, the fridge serves as the coffin of decay that carries disregarded food to the trash bin (Evans 2014, 69). 

When the fridge is too big, the food stored in it tends to get lost and forgotten. When food “just sits in the fridge,” it only becomes discoverable when it’s past its due date. [20]

24. The most wasted food type in the US is bread, with 38% of all grain products lost every year across the country. 

Over 240 million slices of bread are wasted, making it the most wasted food type in the US. 

At least 38 percent of grain products in the US are lost, followed by milk, with nearly 20 percent of the total milk produced.

Top 5 Most Wasted Food In The US

Food TypeHow Much Is Wasted Per YearRank
BreadOver 240 million slices 1
MilkAround 5.9 million glasses2
Potatoes5.8 million pieces3
Cheese3.1 million slices per day4
Apples1.3 million pieces5

25. Around 43% of food waste in the US comes from homes. 

infographics about the food waste in the US comes from homes

Almost half (43 percent) or about 21 million tons (42 billion pounds) of food is wasted in homes, almost similar to the amount of food wasted in restaurants and grocery stores.

Several studies suggest that household composition, including the number of people and the number of children, are strong determinants of household food waste generation. On average, households with more occupants, including children, generate more food waste. [21]

FAQs 

u003cstrongu003eWhere does the US rank in food waste?u003c/strongu003e

According to Forbes [u003ca href=u0022https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2021/03/05/the-enormous-scale-of-global-food-waste-infographic/?sh=60b5332726acu0022 target=u0022_blanku0022 rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022u003e22u003c/au003e], the US ranks third in food waste, throwing away an estimated 19.4 million tons of food every year, where China came first, and India came second.  

u003cstrongu003eWhy is food waste a problem in the US?u003c/strongu003e

Food waste is a problem in the US because food waste emits methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas that affects climate change. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eFood waste also wastes resources such as water, land, labor, energy, and other inputs for producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing discarded food. [u003ca href=u0022https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/why#u0022 target=u0022_blanku0022 rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022u003e23u003c/au003e]

u003cstrongu003eWho manages food waste in the US?u003c/strongu003e

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) manage food waste in the US. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eThey signed a joint agency agreement in 2018, renewed in 2020, aiming to reduce food loss and waste. [u003ca href=u0022https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/food-loss-and-wasteu0022 target=u0022_blanku0022 rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022u003e24u003c/au003e]

u003cstrongu003eDoes the US have a goal to reduce food loss and waste?u003c/strongu003e

Yes, the US has a goal to reduce food loss and waste. EPA and USDA announced the US 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction goal, seeking to cut food loss and waste in half by 2030. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eThe federal government, led by EPA, FDA, and USDA, aims to reduce climate and environmental impacts associated with food loss and waste, improve food security, and save money for families and businesses. [u003ca href=u0022https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/united-states-2030-food-loss-and-waste-reduction-goal#u0022 target=u0022_blanku0022 rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022u003e25u003c/au003e]

In Summary

Food waste in the United States is a $408 major problem. It is equivalent to 130 billion meals, which could have been a huge help in combating hunger. 

Food waste also helps mitigate climate change by emitting greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times more potent carbon dioxide than most vehicles emit. It also affects the supply chain, greatly affecting families, restaurants, groceries, and other businesses.

Unfortunately, the amount of food waste in the US increased, so the waste collection services industry market size worth will be more likely to achieve the projected 1.1 percent increase in 2023, which is worth $73.7 billion.

References:

  1. https://www.usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs 
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/18/americans-waste-food-fruit-vegetables-study 
  3. https://www.newsweek.com/americans-waste-150000-tons-food-every-day-thats-pound-person-892411 
  4. https://agriculture.az.gov/news/no-one-says-no-food-waste 
  5. https://www.tastingtable.com/754095/study-reveals-the-state-that-wastes-the-most-food/ 
  6. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/food-waste-by-country
  7. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1099882/waste-collection-services-industry-key-figures-us/#
  8. https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/waste-collection-services-united-states/
  9. https://restaurant.org/ 
  10.  https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/food-loss-and-waste#
  11.  https://www.usda.gov/
  12.  https://www.feedingamerica.org/our-work/reduce-food-waste 
  13.  https://sites.psu.edu/cowancivicissue/2019/03/25/food-waste/ 
  14. https://www.fastcompany.com/90825190/americans-throw-out-32-of-the-food-they-buy-heres-how-to-avoid-so-much-waste 
  15.  https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/food-loss-and-waste 
  16.  https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/united-states-most-wasteful-country-world 
  17.  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07409710.2022.2089828  
  18. https://www.greenbiz.com/article/beating-food-waste-needs-plastic-question-where-and-when 
  19.  https://sites.psu.edu/cowancivicissue/2019/03/25/food-waste/
  20.  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07409710.2022.2089828
  21.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9192138/  
  22. https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2021/03/05/the-enormous-scale-of-global-food-waste-infographic/ 
  23.  https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/why#
  24.  https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/food-loss-and-waste 
  25. https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/united-states-2030-food-loss-and-waste-reduction-goal#
Shari Mason

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