Food waste is on the rise in America according to Recycle Track Systems. Compared to the rest of the world, which wastes approximately 1.4 billion tons of food every year, the U.S. sends 40 million tons of food to the landfill in the same time period. This is equal to 30 percent to 40 percent of the entire U.S. food supply, or 219 pounds of waste per person.

To put it into perspective, that is the equivalent of every American throwing 650 average-sized apples into the garbage each year. Since COVID-19, the number of Americans suffering from food insecurity is expected to rise from 35 million to 50 million in 2022, due to the financial fallout of the pandemic.

The biggest factor driving food waste is perceived food spoilage, due to a misunderstanding of food labels with the report noting that “sell by,” “use by,” “expires on,” “best before” or “best by” are confusing to people, so consumers toss food that is still good to eat. Approximately 80 percent of Americans have discarded food because they didn’t understand the expiration labels.

Other factors driving food waste include a misperception about how much food they actually need in their homes. The report noted that Americans are often impulsive in their food purchases, unrealistically assessing how much food is required, buying more food than they need or buying food they won’t actually eat.

Americans have also not bought into the act of composting food, meaning scraps that could be used or composted are also sent to landfills. In states like California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, laws have been passed that restrict the amount of food waste going to landfills. According to the Vermont Food Bank, as a result of the new law, food donations statewide have increased 40 percent.

Efforts in New York have kept nearly 100,000 tons of food waste out of landfills. According to the nonprofit organization Feeding America, Americans waste more than $218 billion each year on food, averaging $1,600 a year of produce for a family of four.

The report recommends Americans consider donating their food to food pantries in order to reduce waste. It also suggests meal planning and using a grocery list to lessen the amount of food waste created each year.