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The costs of wasting food

LISTEN: Money Matters 2-24-17

Americans waste food. In fact, studies show more than 20 percent of food available to consume in the U.S. goes to waste. A Purdue economics professor has an idea to fix this problem.

Mike Wetzstein recently completed a study looking at household food waste. He is a member of the Agriculture and Applied Economics Association.

“Sometimes in popular literature you’ll hear people say ‘we want zero food waste’ and do we really want that? Do households really have the objective when they go to the store to not waste any of it.”

Wetzstein says that’s not true.

“In terms of food waste, they really look at what are the additional benefits associated with wasting food verses additional costs so the households actual decision, in terms of wasting food, they will actually end up not having zero waste but some level of food waste.”

He says when people waste food, they don’t look at the outside costs.

“For example, landfills; they create air pollution and water pollution. You also have with food waste, increased Co2 emissions which effect climate change. You also have the food security issue. If we are wasting up to 30 percent of our food, we could use some of it to feed people who are hungry in the United States.”

Wetzstein says one way to fix the waste food problem is having a food disposal tax.

“The other option is to have some type of food preservation incentives. Maybe you offer educational programs on how not to waste food, what food to refrigerate, and outdates on food to make households realize they shouldn’t waste as much food.”