Two Charts Explaining How You Waste Food

American families waste tons—literally—of food every year. See how that stacks up around the world.

We waste far too much of what the world's farmers and fishermen produce. As Tristam Stuart documents in his book Waste, we needlessly throw away carrots, corn, and cod fish, hastening environmental degradation, climate change, and even hunger. There's probably enough wasted food in the United States and Europe to feed all of sub-Sahara Africa.

Yesterday, the FAO released a report, weighing the 660 lbs (300kg) of food each one of us wastes annually in North America. It makes an important distinction between food loss and food waste. Food losses (the blue portion of the bar) tend to occur due to crumbling infrastructure, harvesting technology, or poorly designed packaging, whereas food waste (the red portion) results from restaurants and people like you and me throwing edible, slightly malformed fruits and vegetables into the trash.

As you can see, the problems in Europe and North America have a lot to do with food waste. So, as much as we need institutional changes, it's may be time, if you don't already, to change your habits by embracing non-standard vegetables with minor cosmetic blemishes or reconsidering that waste-hastening, energy-efficient fridge.

Charts via Global Food Losses and Food Waste, (PDF), commissioned by FAO from the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology.