food 03.8.17

By The Numbers: Food Waste

19 billion pounds of food are distributed throughout NYC each year to grocery stores, markets and restaurants. That's 52 million pounds of food per day.

8,800,000 pounds of food becomes residential waste per day

2,750,000 pounds of food becomes restaurant waste per day

That's about 20% in waste—considerably below the national average of up to 40% in food waste. (Two of the factors keeping food waste down in the five boroughs are 1) we tend to shop as needed for only a couple of days ahead—not weekly by car—carrying groceries to apartments with little storage room and 2) the high cost of operating NYC restaurants incentivizes them to keep food costs down, in part by reducing waste.)

Even so, it's still 4 billion pounds of food wasted by New Yorkers in a year. That's 11.5 million pounds of food waste that must be transported to landfill every day, where it releases methane into the atmosphere.

This exodus from apartments, restaurants, and grocery stores to landfills occurs while 1.3 million NYC residents are food insecure.

The good news is that the City has begun addressing this issue. Mayor de Blasio's Zero Waste Challenge was part of the effort to send zero food waste to landfill by 2030. During last year's initiative, 214,000 pounds of edible food was diverted from landfill to New Yorkers in need.

Some municipalities have begun turning landfill methane into electricity. The app Food for All allows you to buy end-of-the-day restaurant food at up to 80% off. New companies have sprung up to deal with food waste before it gets to landfill. And Save the Food has helpful ideas about reducing food waste.

Composting has become, if not yet second nature, far more common for New Yorkers. This is the City's resource page on food scraps and this 2015 report details the City's commitment to composting.

Learn more: The website Waste 360 tracks 'food waste trends, challenges, regulations and legislation, products and technologies'… American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) by Jonathan Bloom gives a very good overview of the issue; get regular updates on the subject from Mr. Bloom's blog Wasted Food.


recent entries

Book Land: Food, Flickr Pool Picks

Hot Bread Kitchen

All the Restaurants in New York, Every Person in New York, Poll: Cynthia Nixon

See all articles in FOOD

Get a daily dose of MUG
right in your Inbox.