I was brought up with enough food to eat but wasting was severely frowned upon. You served on your plate what you thought you needed and then ate all of it. That was not an uncommon practice in Sri Lanka and I suspect in many developing countries. That habit has persisted throughout my life so that to this day I almost never throw any food away. Whatever is bought is cooked and eaten. It is a bit of a joke in my family that I will eat food even if it has just started going bad. If cheese is getting moldy, I will cut out the spoilt part and eat the rest. The same with fruits. I ignore the sell-by date and only throw something away if it smells bad or is obviously rotten. I would save even the tiniest amount of leftover food after a meal, put it in the fridge, and then mix it into an omelette or something later and eat it. I actually find such ‘savory’ omelettes very tasty.
So naturally one of the things that shocked me when I first came to the US was the enormous waste of food that I saw everywhere. Samantha Bee had a segment on food waste and the numbers she quoted astounded me. The amount of food wasted in the US works out to about one pound of food per person per day. About 43% of that waste is thrown out by us consumers, more than restaurants and grocery stores. Americans are estimated to throw out about 15-25% of the food they buy. That is a huge amount of individual waste.
She also said that food that is thrown way in dumps are a big source of methane, one of the worst contributors to global warming, which is 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Food waste contributes 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
As part of my strategy to avoid waste, my fridge is pretty bare, consisting of only the things that I know I can eat fairly soon. I sometimes see fridges in other people’s homes that are completely packed with stuff and wonder how they can eat all of it before it goes bad, or even know all that is in there. Perhaps they can’t, and that is why there is such waste.