EPA Tells Americans to Finish Their Leftovers

By Susan Jones | November 16, 2012 | 6:29 AM EST

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(CNSNews.com) - In the olden days, the phrase was "waste not, want not." Nowadays, it's mostly waste not.

The Environmental Protection Agency -- observing "America Recycles Day" on Thursday -- is challenging Americans to make "smarter, more sustainable food management choices," and that includes finishing, freezing or giving away your leftovers.

"All Americans can help reduce food waste by limiting food purchases to what they are able to eat, and finishing leftovers before buying more food," the EPA announcement said.

It also recommends freezing or preserving produce before it goes bad; donating canned or other "untouched, safe food" to needy people; and composting food scraps.

And of course there's a "climate change" angle: "When food is discarded in landfills, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change," the EPA said, noting that Americans throw away up to 40 percent of their food, an average of 20 pounds per person a month. An estimated 33 million tons of food ends up in landfills or incinerators each year.

"Much of this wasted food is actually surplus, wholesome and edible food that could have helped those in need," the EPA said.

The EPA says wasted food has economic, environmental, and social impacts, and therefore, reducing food waste "is an opportunity where all Americans can help make a difference."  

The agency says it is now working with grocers, universities, and stadiums as part of a "Food Recovery Challenge" that aims to feed people, not landfills. The challenge begins with the advice to "purchase leaner."

The EPA has even designed a "Food Recovery Hierarchy," showing the "most preferred" ways of dealing with surplus food.