Why Your Garbage Stinks

These are dark days to be a foodie. Food trucks are getting hijacked in the Sudan, and reports of food riots are coming out of Egypt, Yemen, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, and Senegal.

Closer to home, flour prices are up 93 percent from last February 2007, and the price of cheese jumped 25 percent. (And you can’t even cry in your beer, since shortages of hops and barley are driving up the cost of the noble brew.)

In such times of crisis, you’d expect people to make the leftovers go a long way. Ironically, a British study released this month found just the opposite. It analyzed the trash of more than 2,000 U.K. households, and found that one third of all food purchased is thrown out. A 1997 USDA study reached a similar conclusion, estimating that 27 percent of edible food is never eaten.

Adding to this rotting mess is an estimate that 8 to 10 percent of all perishable goods sold in the U.S. are wasted at the supermarket level. The United Nations concluded that U.S. retailers and consumers combine to throw away $48 billion worth of food every year.

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