Food Wastes

A large part of the American waste stream is made up of food wastes. In fact, according to some estimates, more than 40 percent of all food produced in America is not eaten but simply thrown away Experts say wasting food in this way harms the environment. First, enormous amounts of fossil fuel are used to produce, transport, and store food products, and throwing away good food both squanders these resources and unnecessarily produces carbon emissions, which cause global warming. The disposal of leftover food in landfills further contributes to climate change because rotting organic matter releases methane, an-

other potent greenhouse gas. Food waste also costs money—according to some estimates, about $600 per household each year. To address this problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends buying less food by planning dinners, using shopping lists, and ordering sensibly at restaurants. Unsold food or unpicked crops can also be used to feed the poor or added to food for livestock. If food wastes cannot be consumed, the EPA recommends composting them in order to keep the wastes out of landfills and create natural fertilizer that can be used on plants and gardens.

Incinerators also pose health risks. As the NRDC explains, "Municipal waste incinerators—like landfills—generate a wide range of toxic air pollutants—including dioxins, furans, heavy metals such as mercury cadmium, and lead, acid gases, and fine particles —as well as contaminated ash."9 For this reason, incineration plants are subject to many regulatory and legal requirements. The burdens of regulation, as well as vocal opposition from citizens living near proposed incineration sites, have made incineration a disfavored method of trash disposal in the United States.

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