According to the EPA, over 36 million tons of food waste reach reaches landfills each year in the United States. In my mind, this is obviously a lot of food waste, but I wanted to take the opportunity to try to quantify this amount in slightly more comprehensible terms.
A landfill engineer we met with recently calculated that 1185 pounds of food waste takes up about one cubic yard of landfill space. That means each ton (2000 pounds) of food waste occupies about 1.7 cubic yards of landfill space.
At 1.7 cubic yards per ton, 36 million tons of food waste occupies about 61 million cubic yards. That is how much space our food waste takes up in landfills in the US EVERY YEAR!!
Okay, so how much space is that?
Well, if you spread all that out at one foot deep, you could cover 60 square miles!
You could fill 18,556 Olympic-size swimming pools with all that food waste!
If you were to stack that food waste in blocks one foot by one foot by one foot (one cubic foot), you could stack those blocks all the way to the moon (240,000 miles), and back about one-third of the way.
If you were to cover the entire space of a football field (including both end zones) with food waste, the stack would reach almost 29,000 feet. That is about five and half miles high, and nearly reaches the cruising altitude of modern airliners. That is almost as tall as Mount Everest is from sea level!
Maybe this will give another way to visualize how much waste we as a nation to produce—As of this writing, the population of the US is 317,274,000 (over 317 million). The average American weighs around 175 pounds. That means the entire population of the US, if piled onto a giant scale, weighs about 55,522,950,000 (over 55 billion) pounds, or 27,761,475 (over 27 million) tons. That means the food waste we send to the landfill EVERY YEAR is over twice as much as the combined weight of the entire population of the country!!