The role food waste plays in climate change

An activist group against food waste
"Comida Basura" ("Junk Food") is an activist group in Spain which aims to raise awareness about food waste by organizing free meals using salvaged goods.
Dominique Faget | Getty Images 2012

This past weekend, 30 world leaders sat down to lunch in New York to talk about climate change.

On the menu: Landfill Salad, made out of vegetable scraps and rejected fruits; a veggie burger made of discarded pulp from juicing; and corn fries made out of the kind of starchy corn used to create animal feed.

The lunch was designed to draw attention to the vast amount of food waste around the world, and the role it plays in creating greenhouse gases. In the U.S. alone, 40 perfect of food never makes it to the table. It's estimated that we throw away 35 million tons of food every year — that's the equivalent of fill town football stadiums every day.

Earlier this month, the USDA and EPA joined forces with local government and other organization to set the first ever national food waste reduction goal. Their goal: Cut food waste in half by 2030.

A reduction of food waste would have a large impact on greenhouse gas emission, which contributes to global warming. Currently, 5 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from food that's been wasted.

In fact, if food waste were a nation, it would be a top emitter of greenhouse gases, just below China and the U.S.

Grant Gerlock, the lead reporter on the series "Tossed Out: Food in America," and Jonathan Bloom, the author of "American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly of Its Food," joined MPR News' Marianne Combs to talk about the issue, and what steps individuals can take to reduce waste.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is Member supported public media. Show your support today, donate, and ensure access to local news and in-depth conversations for everyone.