The progressive increase of food waste in America and its environmental impact

PLoS One. 2009 Nov 25;4(11):e7940. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007940.


Food waste contributes to excess consumption of freshwater and fossil fuels which, along with methane and CO(2) emissions from decomposing food, impacts global climate change. Here, we calculate the energy content of nationwide food waste from the difference between the US food supply and the food consumed by the population. The latter was estimated using a validated mathematical model of metabolism relating body weight to the amount of food eaten. We found that US per capita food waste has progressively increased by approximately 50% since 1974 reaching more than 1400 kcal per person per day or 150 trillion kcal per year. Food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater consumption and approximately 300 million barrels of oil per year.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Body Weight
  • Carbon Dioxide / chemistry
  • Climate
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Environment
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Refuse Disposal / methods*
  • United States
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Water Pollutants


  • Water Pollutants
  • Carbon Dioxide