Monday, November 17, 2014


I was listening to a show on public radio this morning, and they featured a segment during which it was explained that the EPA is very concerned with the amount of food that gets wasted in American households. The bureaucrats at the EPA (and the good folks at my local PBS) evidently think this deplorable and are doing studies to assess exactly how much food gets scraped off our plates and stuffed down the garbage disposal each week.

I was inclined to agree, in a knee-jerk kind of way, that it's bad to waste food until I heard this segment and started to think about it. I certainly agree that waste is bad when it's a non-renewable resource like oil that's being squandered, or if what's wasted is a mind, or time, or a life. To see any of these wasted is very sad.

But why is wasting food bad, I asked myself. It's not as if the food that goes down the garbage disposal would otherwise go to feed hungry children somewhere in the third world. Our wastefulness isn't depriving someone else of sustenance.

Then I wondered what would happen if people only bought exactly what they were going to eat. Would that be good? Well, not necessarily. The more food we buy the more money we put in the pockets of the food merchants who sell it, the farmers who produce it, the processors who prepare it, and the truckers who transport it, whether the food we buy gets eaten or not. This is a good thing. The food may go moldy in our cupboards, but buying it provides jobs for a lot of people and if we all limited ourselves to buying only what we consumed, a lot of those people would be worse off.

So maybe I'm missing something, but wasting food doesn't seem to be the same sort of thing as wasting time or wasting water during a drought. As long as it's not taking food out of the mouths of the hungry I don't see why it's "wrong" at all, and I don't know why the EPA thinks it's any business of theirs how much people waste.

Maybe if the EPA is concerned about waste they should do a study on how many taxpayer dollars they waste on dumb studies on waste.