Wasted: America Knows It Has A Problem, But Doesn't Know How To Stop Wasting Food

Time for your daily dose of depressing news!

According to survey data, America wastes approximately $160 billion of food each year, and while Americans admit to knowing about their waste output, and to feeling guilty about it, they also admit not to feeling bad enough to, you know… do anything about it.

Per the new PLOS ONE survey released last week, 77 percent of respondents in a poll of 500 people representative of the American population stated that they do feel guilty when wasting food (and no wonder -- the NRDC reports that we waste an estimated 40 percent of the food we produce each year). However, there seems to be some confusion among Americans: As it turns out, we’re not quite sure why we should feel guilty.

While 58 percent of respondents affirmed that they believed food waste wasn’t good for the environment (only 58%? Come on, folks), an even scantier 42 percent believe food waste is a major source of squandered money.

The above numbers came as a shock to Brian Roe, a professor of agricultural marketing and policy at Ohio State University and the study’s co-author.

“Our intuition is that respondents might think that throwing away food is environmentally benign because food is organic and naturally occurring,” Roe wrote via email to the Huffington Post, “and they haven’t quite connected the dots that food that goes to a landfill produces methane, which has substantial environmental impacts and that all the energy and resources that went into creating the wasted food are essentially now useless.”

Respondents also demonstrated a disconnect between their guilt over food waste and their beliefs that they could do anything to change it.

A surprising 42 percent of respondents alleged that they don’t have enough time to worry about their food waste, and 51 percent felt it would simply put them out too much to figure out how to reduce food waste in their homes. Furthermore, it turns out we all believe that the figures are bad, but that we’re not the worst offenders: 87 percent of respondents claimed they believe that similar households to their own throw out more food than they do.

While these numbers seem discouraging, according to Dana Gunders, a food-waste expert at the National Resources Defense Council, any progress is good progress. Four years ago, “nobody was talking about the issue and nobody was thinking about it,” she told Bloomberg. “To have over half the population think food waste is a serious problem is a tremendous achievement in terms of public awareness.”