Every day, grocery stores across the country discard vast amounts of food.

Grocery stores lose an estimated $18.2 billion a year from food waste, according to Refed, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to reducing food waste in the United States.

The main reasons so much food is wasted in grocery stores are due to overstocking, poor planning, and selling food past its expiration date. Many grocery stores have started to reduce their food waste by donating unsold food to local food banks or using it to make animal feed. However, a large amount of store-bought food still ends up in landfills.

In this article, we will explore the various reasons why grocery stores discard so much food and how they can reduce the amount of wasted food.

On this page, you will find:

How Much Food do Grocery Stores Throw Away

The supermarkets & grocery stores throw away about 44.8 billion pounds of food each year according to the data we gather from Dumpsters, NYCFoodPolicy, Thegrocerystoreguy, Smartsense, MoveforHunger, and Survivalfreedom. This number includes spoiled food, expired, or simply not sold.

How Much Food do Grocery Stores Throw Away

Some of this food is donated to charities or used to feed animals in zoos and sanctuaries, but a large portion is simply thrown away.

There are several ways to reduce the amount of food that grocery stores discard each year.

First, consumers can be more mindful of what they buy and make sure not to purchase too much food. Second, grocery stores can develop better systems for tracking and selling leftover food products.

How much food do grocery stores throw away each day

On average, grocery stores discard 122.7 million pounds of food each day.

How Much Food Do Grocery Stores Throw Away Each Day

This food comes from a variety of sources: expired products, items that are damaged or have gone bad, and items that are close to their expiration date.

How much money do grocery stores lose from food waste?

Grocery Stores lose an estimated $18.2 billion a year from food waste, according to a report from Refed. That’s about 0.3 percent of all food sales in the U.S.

How Much Money Do Grocery Stores Lose From Food Waste?

Wasted food is more than just a financial drain on grocery stores – it has major environmental consequences as well. About 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten, while at the same time, 1 in 8 Americans struggles to put enough food on the table.

What percentage of food do grocery stores throw away

It’s estimated that about 10% of the food grocery stores throw away according to a report from Business Insider.

This happens for a variety of reasons, such as being slightly past the expiration date or being misshapen. However, most grocery stores are reluctant to donate this food to charity because of liability concerns.

How much meat do grocery stores throw away

It’s estimated that grocery stores discard around 20% of the meat they receive. This is because the meat is perishable and can only stay fresh for a certain amount of time. When it reaches its expiration date, the store has to either sell it at a discount or discard it.

This waste could be reduced if grocery stores were better able to forecast demand and order the right amount of meat.

Yet, this is sometimes difficult to do because meat demand varies from week to week and season to season. As a result, the store would sometimes over-order and sometimes under-order, resulting in waste.

What percent of food waste goes to landfills

Food waste accounts for approximately 21.5% of all landfill garbage according to the report data we collected from EPA, FDA, NPR, Nycfoodpolicy, Rubicon, and Calrecycle.

This means that more than one-fifth of the stuff we throw away ends up in landfills where it decomposes and emits methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change

Key Finding on Grocery Store Food Waste Statistics

  • The United States is on top in discarding food in the world: nearly 42 million tons are wasted every year. 
  • A single person in the US wastes 219 pounds of food.
  • In the United States, between 30-40 percent of the food produced is wasted. 
  • The wastage of food accounts for $161 Billion dollars.
  • 43 billion pounds of food in grocery stores will never make it off the shelf. 
  • About 12 percent of fruit and 11.5 percent of vegetables are never sold.
  • Around 19,000 new unpopular food products placed on shelves are likely to be discarded.
  • 30% of a grocery store’s trash is food waste.
  • Up to 50 percent of produce Is thrown out while still edible.

1. The food wasted by the retail sector represents $18.2 billion of loss yearly.


This seems to be a significant issue, but it is really manageable since these merchants are able to convert wasted food into earnings. Large retailers like as Walmart, Kroger, and other similar businesses have direct relationships with farmers, processors, and consumers. They have the ability to influence every step of the supply chain in order to bring about positive change that will benefit the environment and decrease the amount of money lost due to food waste.

2. Pack sizes that are too large and reduce flexibility. 

(Natural Resources Defense Council)

Produce is sold in predetermined quantities and amounts, limiting the consumer’s ability to be creative. Despite the fact that there is no “one size fits all” solution, progress is being made to reduce food waste. Although retailers may find it difficult to implement a new system that allows for flexible packaging sizes according to grocers’ requirements, the amount of food that can be saved is enormous. Over-purchasing is typically caused by a lack of flexibility on the part of the buyer. For example, if a client wants 30 grapefruits but the shop only has a pack of 50, the business and the customer are both left with 20 extra grapefruits that will most likely be squandered.

3. 33% of retail food waste ends up in landfills.

(Baker City Herald ) 

However, despite all of the advances in technology and creativity, the vast majority of retail food waste ends up in landfills, where it is unable to replenish the soil with its nutrients. Following that, the food begins to decay and emit methane gas. Consumers are increasingly inquiring about the measures that merchants are taking to ensure that food waste is kept to a minimum. Retailers must take extreme measures to make a difference and decrease the amount of food that is wasted in order to maintain their reputation and make the world a better place.

4. 14.3% of retail food waste is repurposed as animal feed.


Farmers have been feeding their livestock with leftover food that has been given to them by shops all across the nation for a long time since it is much less expensive than hauling trash to disposal sites. Some shops may give the animals to zoos or utilize them to create pet food for their customers. It is necessary to have rules in place since shops cannot give every kind of discarded food because certain food, such as foods rich in salt or containing coffee, may damage the animals and lower the grade of cattle.


As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical American family spends over $3000 on dining out, requiring restaurants to utilize large quantities of plastics and cutlery to accommodate the demand. Unbelievably large amounts of food are also thrown away, with an estimated annual worth of $162 billion. Remember to be attentive while ordering and to pick portion sizes wisely in order to prevent having any leftovers. The recycling sector is putting out tremendous effort to bring this figure down.

6. Wasted food from the retail sector is valued at almost twice the profit from food sales.


Due to strict standards, a high expiration rate, and over-ordering, about 30% of food is thrown away after it has been sitting on the shelves for an excessive amount of time. Some foods have a limited shelf life due to the fact that they are extremely perishable. Although they may not taste great, they are totally safe to consume and are disposed of as trash. The retail industry in the United States generates about 16 billion pounds of food waste each year.

7. In 2018, 797,591 tons of retail food waste were used for compost processes.

(Shelf Engine)

Composting is the process through which organic materials such as food scraps and yard waste are converted into fertilizer. A large portion of the discarded food that does not get diverted from the stream ends up in landfills. Trash materials are packed firmly in there, and as a result, the waste cannot be converted into compost. Waste may be converted into valuable material if done properly. Compost may be utilized in a variety of ways, including being marketed as fertilizer and being used for gardening.

8. Food wastes cause 11 percent of the world’s emissions.


Global warming is beginning to plague mankind, and a significant part of the gases released by decaying food in landfills is responsible for both land degradation and climate change. The greenhouse gas emissions produced by the United States are equal to the emissions produced by 37 million automobiles. It is possible that if we continue on this rising trajectory, the repercussions will be really catastrophic. We must develop methods that will reduce food waste while still allowing us to maintain the inherent nutrients and freshness of the food we consume.

9. Each year the food supply chain wastes 45% of all produce, out of which 35% of seafood, 30% are of grains, and 20% are of meat and dairy products.


The results of this research demonstrate how various categories of goods have varying amounts of food waste. These are all perishable goods that are often thrown out after a short amount of time, which may be due to a lack of flexibility when purchasing, over-ordering, or other factors such as poor storage conditions. Any abrupt change in any situation, including the weather, may result in the spoilage of some goods, such as seafood and dairy products.


(Natural Resources Defense Council)

Every year, a significant number of goods are produced without a suitable market and then launched into the retail sector, where they are either unpopular or fail to sell. These unsuccessful products typically expire while still on the shelves and are thrown, contributing to the 40 percent of food that is wasted by merchants before it is ever put on the shelves.

Why is so much food wasted in grocery stores?

Food is discarded by grocery retailers because it does not fulfill specific cosmetic requirements. Rejecting fruits and vegetables that are deformed, discolored, or have small flaws is a good example of this.

While it’s true that these foods may not look as appealing to the average customer, they’re perfectly edible and nutritious. Many grocery stores now sell “ugly produce” at a discount to reduce food waste.

Why do grocery stores throw away food instead of donating

Due of liability concerns, some supermarket stores may refuse to contribute food. Food that has not been sold may be tainted or have expired packaging.

Finally, coordinating with a food bank can be a lot of extra work for a grocery store.



Baker City Herald 

Natural Resources Defense Council








Natural Resources Defense Council

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