University of Florida

Reducing Food Waste

About 40 percent of food in the United States is not eaten. In fact, Americans throw away about 35 million tons of food each year, making up the largest percentage of waste that travels to landfills and burns in incinerators.

At a time when we are expected to feed 9 billion mouths globally by 2050, we need to learn how to reduce food waste.

Reducing Food Waste Benefits

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially the amounts of methane, which has 21 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
  • Receive tax benefits by donating foods.
  • Composting, a method to reduce food waste, improves soil, increases drought tolerance, and reduces the need for extra water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
  • Saves money by lessening disposal costs.
  • About 50 million Americans do not have enough food—donating food items can provide struggling families with food to feed their children.

15 Tips for Reducing Food Waste

From donating canned goods to organizing your refrigerator more efficiently, here are 15 ways to reduce the amount of food you throw away. 

  • Donate non-perishable and unspoiled, perishable foods to food banks, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters.
  • Search you refrigerator to see what you can make before going grocery shopping.
  • Freeze fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, and other foods before they spoil. See Preserving Food: Freezing Vegetables for more information.
  • Not only can you feed people, but you can feed animals with food scraps as well. Contact your local County Extension office, state veterinarian, or county health department to learn about donation regulations and how to contact licensed farmers.
  • Cook and serve smaller food portions to reduce waste.
  • Shop smart—plan meals, create shopping lists, and avoid impulse purchases—in order to only buy the foods you need and will eat.
  • Instead of throwing away your leftover bacon grease or French fry oil, try looking into sending those fats, oils, and grease to a local rendering industry.
  • Buying in bulk is a sustainable practice and can save you money, but be sure you will use all of the items you buy.
  • Composting turns food waste into rich soil. In fact, more than 95 percent of foods—varying from fruit and vegetable peels to stale potato chips to egg shells—are thrown away when they could be composted.
  • Use leftovers for lunch later in the week or freeze them to eat at a later time.
  • Buy local foods whenever possible to reduce foods’ travel times and keep the foods fresher longer.
  • When eating out, take the leftovers home with you.
  • Although its name can tempt to load your plate with piles of food, only take what you will eat at all-you-can-eat buffets.
  • Extend the life and get the most out of certain vegetables, fruits, meats, and other foods by learning how to organize them properly in your refrigerator.

The next time you’re about scrape leftovers into the trash or throw away spoiled foods, consider how one in six Americans does not have access to enough food.

As with many social and environmental-friendly practices, each step—no matter how small—helps make a positive difference.

Adapted and excerpted from:

Food Waste Reduction and Prevention,” United States EPA (rev. 04/2014).

Reducing Wasted Food Basics,” United States EPA (rev. 03/2014).

Reducing Food Waste for Businesses,” United States EPA (rev. 03/2014).

Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its food from Farm to Fork To Landfill,” National Resources Defense Council (08/2012).

canned goods

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