Americans waste mass quantities of food every year — and healthy eaters waste the most.
That’s according to a new collaborative study released this week from the United States Department of Agriculture, the University of Vermont and the University of New Hampshire.
The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, revealed that Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day, amounting to about one pound per person.
That means food waste totals about 25 percent of all food, by weight, available for consumption in the U.S.
Those with healthier diets rich in fruit and vegetables, researchers said, are the most wasteful. Of the 22 food groups studied, fruits, vegetables and mixed fruit and vegetable dishes made up 39 percent of wasted products, followed by dairy (17 percent) and meat dishes (14 percent).
"Eating healthy is important, and brings many benefits, but as we pursue these diets, we must think much more consciously about food waste,” study co-author Meredith Niles of the University of Vermont, said in a statement.
The food waste has significant environmental effects. In fact, the report found that the wasted food uses about 30 million acres of land, or seven percent of the American agricultural area. Other environmental costs: 4.2 trillion gallons of water and nearly 2 billion pounds of fertilizer.
“Increasing consumers’ knowledge about how to prepare and store fruits and vegetables will be one of the practical solutions,” authors wrote.
According to the Washington Post, previous studies have suggested “wasted food, like all food production, also contributes to the warming of the planet, because agriculture is a key source of the fast-warming gases methane and nitrous oxide.” This study, however, didn’t incorporate greenhouse gas emissions as a product of food waste.