Food Production & Waste

Eighty billion pounds of food is thrown out each year in the U.S.

Our Take

Curbing food waste in the US can actually do as much to lower our carbon emissions as taking 37 million cars off the road. How can we slow the rise of food waste?

Educate Yourself

Quick Facts


125 to 160 billion estimated pounds of food that goes to waste every year, much of it perfectly edible and nutritious. [5]


1/4 of the world’s greenhouse gases are due to the world’s food system [6]


50% of all food waste is from households equalling 150,000 tons everyday! [7]


1,500 miles is the average number of miles your fruit and veggies travel before hitting your plate.


#3 is where food waste would rank as an emitter of greenhouse gases if it were a country! (behind the U.S. and China)[9]

What is happening?

How many times did you hear “clean your plate” when you were growing up? While stuffed zucchini may not be on the top of your list, the person who told you this was right for many reasons. Not only are there people who need the food we waste, but did you know that the food we waste is actually a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions? According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 30-40% of our harvested food is never eaten! This is food that could help feed families, and is a loss to our economy. The food gets lost, spoiled during distribution, or is simply thrown away. About 75% of the food that could be composted, just ends up in landfills[1] Agriculture is responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions which are responsible for making our world hotter, some of these processes you can’t control, but we can control our plates!

How are we wasting all this food? There are many places in food production, processing and distribution that food can be lost. Believe it or not, 2-3% of food product loss is due to “cosmetic imperfections” and “ugly produce.”[2] Some of this culled food will be repurposed as animal feed or composted, but much is not. If the food survives production and the culling process, it has to be processed, delivered and bought. Our stores are a large source of waste as well. They want to make sure that they’re overstocked in order to be competitive, but that leads to a lot of food going bad on the shelves. This doesn’t even account for the amount of food you leave on your plate from an overzealous restaurant portion, a dinner you aren’t fond of, or the leftovers that get shoved to the back of the refrigerator. In the end, whether it’s from pests or weather before harvest or that it isn’t pretty enough after, food waste happens in the process from start-to-finish.

What are the effects?

Aside from the obvious hunger factor, which affects over 800 million people in the world according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural organization (FAO), food waste contributes 4.4 gigatons of CO2 each year[3]. “If, as a planet, we stopped wasting food altogether, we’d eliminate 8% of our total emissions” [4] But not all food waste is the same. Meat and Dairy have higher carbon emissions than fruits and vegetables. It isn’t just the carbon emissions either. Think deforestation for food production, and the amount of freshwater used in production. These indirect costs to the environment affect Climate Change as well, and are lost in vain when we waste food. By addressing food waste, we can reduce emissions while, at the same time, easing the pressure that agriculture puts on our other precious resources.

How KCI is Slowing the Rise

Act Now to #slowtherise


Ponder Your Plate

Think about what you are putting on your plate. Work hard to reduce your waste. Don’t forget the leftovers in the fridge.

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My Family

Rescue Food

There are many options for taking action in your home and town. Learn how to rescue food in your community and reuse your scraps!

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My Community

Anaerobic Digesters

Create a movement to get digesters for farms to collect waste and make energy, or find out how to send your produce to an anaerobic digester.

Learn More

How You Can Help

Find out if you are valuing your food! Think about what you are putting on your plate. Work hard to reduce your waste. Don’t forget the leftovers in the fridge. Find out if you are valuing your food! Take this quiz, and give it to your family, you may be surprised at what you find and might even learn some new ways to reduce your waste!

Food Waste Quiz

School Composting – Let’s Get Growing!

The Ultimate School Composting Resources Page

How Your Family Can Help

Get more from your food, and keep it from going to the dump! There are many options for taking action in your home and town. Also did you know that there are over 25 foods you can grow from the scraps? From lettuce and celery to pineapples and pumpkins, do some research and figure it out! If you don’t care to try, just make sure to compost them yourself or advocate for community composting. The best part about that? People who contribute their food waste benefit from fantastic compost in the spring!

8 Ways To Take Action On Food Waste

Sustainable America Food Rescue Calculator

Efficient & Resourceful Closed-Loop Solution 

Home Composting Basics

How Your Community Can Help

Create energy from food waste! Find an anaerobic digester, or work to get one for your community. Create a movement to get digesters for farms to collect waste and make energy, or find out where the nearest one is and how to send produce to an anaerobic digester. Research the local laws, and encourage local grocery stores to donate food to shelters, food banks and soup kitchens.

Growing Local Fertility: A Guide To Community Composting

Baby Carrots were an invention to prevent food waste!

Take it Further

Educate Us

Are you or your organization doing something to slow the rise of this cause that TCI should know about or feature? Let us know!

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