If you’re one of the 91% of Americans that has tossed something from your fridge because of the “sell by” date printed on the packaging, then late night host John Oliver would like to have some words with you.
Most of the food that Americans throw away—which totals about $165 billion worth each year or 20 pounds per person each month—is perfectly edible. By some estimates, Americans are throwing away as much as 40% of their edible food.
Food waste is driven by a number of factors, including the tyranny of the “sell by” and “use by” dates. But, as Oliver points out, those dates are not legally mandated and are actually chosen by the manufacturers—who also have every incentive to convince you to throw away good food, so you will go out and buy more.
American shoppers, and even the United States Department of Agriculture, are also predisposed against “ugly” foods, like slightly misshapen peaches. So a lot of those just never make it to the store, and are instead thrown out.
This isn’t just a matter of environmental wastefulness. With 49.1 million Americans living in food-insecure households in 2013, throwing away good food is simply unconscionable.