Excluding the transportation and disposal (landfills and transportation to them) of food in the United States, approximately 6 % of total energy consumption in the United States is related to the food cycle. Food is wasted in several sectors along its path from production to consumption: from the agriculture sector to manufacturing and processing to the food sales and service industries to the residential sector.
Approximately one-fourth of the total energy associated with the food cycle is wasted along the path from poor crops to manufacturing losses to uneaten leftovers at restaurants to disposal of once edible or still packaged food in the home. This energy loss is 1.5 % of the total energy consumption in the United States, and which consequently leads to about 1.5 % of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Some of these losses are unavoidable such as the processing of meat and poultry where inedible portions are removed or fruit and vegetable rinds. But most of the waste is food that can be salvaged. Ways to reduce food waste include smaller portions in restaurants (specifically fast food restaurants, which grew by 8 % from 1995 to 1999), farm gleaning and donations to food banks from wholesale markets.
Polices can change such as changing fruit and vegetable standards from aesthetically pleasing to edible or not edible. Communities can change and are changing. Some communities have separate disposals of recycling, composting and regular waste disposal. Requiring residents to pay for their portion of waste leads to an increased consciousness of what people waste and what they recycle. But we must remember, even recycling requires energy.
When trying to tackle energy issues and climate change, look no further than the food you are tossing in the garbage.