Organic Waste Management

John Oliver Gives Background of Food Waste in America

North Andover, MA | July 22, 2015:

John Oliver, the host of HBO's hit show Last Week Tonight, has gained a reputation for drawing attention to relevant issues that are not addressed in mainstream media. During the July 19th episode, Oliver delivered a segment on food waste. As we at Organic Waste Management know first-hand, food waste has become an increasing issue for states and municipalities across the country.

The segment opens with some frightening and shocking statistics on food waste in America:
  • As much as 40% of the food produced in the United States each year never gets eaten
  • Americans throw away $165 billion of food annually
  • It’s estimated that on average each American throws away 20 pounds of food per month
  • If the food Americans throw away were stored in football stadiums, the amount of food wasted in one year would fill 730 stadiums
  • U.S. per capita food waste has progressively increased by around 50% since 1974
  • In 2013 there were 49.1 million Americans living in food-insecure households

Although as Oliver notes, “there are also other less obvious consequences to discarding food. For a start, we’re wasting all the labor and natural resources that went into making it. And at a time when the landscape of California is shriveling up like a pumpkin in front of a house with a lazy dad, it seems especially unwise that farmers are pumping water into food that ends up being used as a garnish for landfills. Because those landfills go on to cause [global warming through the release of methane]”.

The full segment, available to watch for free here outlines several causes of food waste. These range from unnecessary and inaccurate expiration dates on packaged food items to produce being thrown out at farms because it is not as aesthetically pleasing as it could be. The amount of food waste reaching landfills has reached such high levels that many states, such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut have instituted waste bans that prohibit businesses generating more than a certain weight of food waste from disposing of it in landfills. With our partnered anaerobic digester, Organic Waste Management is helping businesses both small and large divert their food waste and comply with these bans. As Robert Heffernan III, OWM’s COO puts it, “The digester will have many benefits, from additional convenience for food waste generators due to its higher tolerance for contamination compared to traditional composters, to benefits for society as a whole such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a renewable energy source.”

While more environmentally-friendly disposal of food waste will certainly help mitigate some of the issues that this waste has been causing in our landfills, more drastic societal changes will be required to fix the issue of food waste itself. As John Oliver summarizes, “Everyone basically agrees small businesses should get tax incentives to donate food. So we have to find a way to pass that. But even if we do, it will be one small part of what needs to be a much bigger solution. From resolving to eat uglier fruit, to taking expiration dates with a pinch of salt, to no longer worrying about getting sued by high power lawyers representing the hungry. And we all have to address our relationship with food waste.”

Source: Oliver, John. “Food Waste.” Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. © 2017  Home Box Office, Inc. All Rights Reserved.