New Study Says American Families Waste Nearly Half of the Food They Buy

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COLUMBIA - The Natural Resources Defense Council recently released a study saying Americans waste 40% of the food they bring home from the store.

Fresh fruits and vegetables account for 22% of food waste. Dairy is the next biggest source of food waste, followed by meat, poultry and fish.

This wasted food is not only bad for Americans' wallets, but also the environment. According to the NRDC's report, food scraps that end up rotting in a landfill are now the largest source of solid waste in landfills nationwide. As they decompose, scraps contribute 23% of the United States' methane emissions, which are 25 times as harmful to the ozone layer as the carbon dioxide emissions from gas-fueled vehicles. 

The NRDC attributes the large amount of waste to a few factors.

Inexpensive, bulk purchases is one of them. These can leave consumers with more than they need. The excess may then be thrown away and end up in a landfill.

Confusing sell-by dates are also a factor. "Use By" means that a consumer should use the product by the printed date. "Best By" means that the product will pass the point of peak freshness by the printed date, but it is still safe to eat.

The NRDC also suggests ways to prevent food waste.

They say to shop wisely: plan out meals and make shopping lists so you just buy what you need.

They also say to save leftovers and to freeze any unused food rather than tossing it.

The NRDC report says small changes like these can make a big difference.