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More than one-third, or 50 million tons, of the food produced in the United States is never eaten, and consumers' concern over the country's food waste is growing, according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Sealed Air Corp.
In fact, 63 percent of grocery shoppers in the U.S. indicate food waste as their main environmental concern, topping pollution (59 percent), water shortages (57 percent), climate change (53 percent), and genetically modified foods (52 percent).
Yet, according to the study, only 34 percent of shoppers are concerned about food waste in their own homes -- incongruent with the 63 percent who identify the issue as a serious concern overall.
Despite this figure, the good news, according to Sealed Air's VP of Sustainability Ron Cotterman, is that "more and more people are becoming aware of the staggering statistics surrounding food waste and its devastating environmental, economic and social impact on the world."
How Food Packaging Affects Food Waste
One of the key elements within the food waste debate, according to the study, is how foods are packaged.
American grocery shoppers tend to associate packaging more with safety than with waste, and see discarded packaging as worse for the environment than food waste – food with minimal or no packaging is seen as more environmentally friendly. Yet consumers tend to behave contrary to their beliefs, the study found, with 40 percent having removed original packaging from store-bought foods and repackaged it in the last six months.
“Grocery shoppers have troubling misperceptions about food packaging, and mistakenly view it as a contributor to food waste rather than correctly acknowledging its role as food preserver,” Cotterman added. “We believe that by better understanding where and why food is wasted we can generate increased awareness and identify opportunities to help change consumer behavior and prevent food waste.”
The 2014 Food Waste Study polled 1,000 U.S. adults who do at least 25 percent of their household's grocery shopping.