Food waste reduction

Food is a valuable resource. Edible and inedible food reach landfills more than any other material in everyday trash. Below are resources to help you prevent food from being wasted, in addition to links to more information about the Use Food Well Washington planning process. 

Why is preventing food waste important?

When food is wasted, so are the resources and labor used to grow, harvest, process, transport, and manage the food from farm to table. Reducing food waste and wasted food has social, environmental, and economic value.

Wasted food is a social issue:

  • In 2017, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) estimated that 16 percent of Washington’s population struggled to put food on the table.
  • One in six Washingtonians (1.15 million people) receive food from emergency food providers, according to the WSDA

Wasted food is an environmental issue:

  • Food is a valuable resource. Wasting edible and inedible food also wastes the water, energy, labor, pesticides, fertilizers, and land used to make the food.
  • When food goes to the landfill, nutrients in the food do not return to the soil. The wasted food rots and produces methane gas. Methane (CH4) is one of the three main greenhouse gases, along with carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Methane is pound for pound 28 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

Wasted food is an economic issue:

  • The US EPA estimates $218 billion dollars are spent to grow food that is not eaten in the United States.
  • It is estimated that at the retail and consumer levels, food loss and waste total to $161 billion dollars nationally.
  • According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. It is estimated this cost can equal $1,365 to $2,275 annually.

How much food waste is there in Washington?

Food waste is the largest component of the state and country's municipal solid waste. State data from 2015-16 shows that:

  • Food makes up 16 percent of overall garbage (779,555 tons), which includes residential, commercial, and self-hauled garbage.

  • Edible food is being discarded. Edible food makes up 8 percent of overall garbage (374,490 tons).

Here are a few resources on food waste reduction: