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Reaction: John Oliver Food Waste Routine

Our associated bloggers at Hazelblog offer a summary and commentary on the often humorous quips but also sobering (oftentimes comical) statistics presented by John Oliver late last week.

Although only seventeen minutes and change, television personality John Oliver’s segment last week packed a multitude of statistics pertaining to American food waste, some shocking enough to have seemed fabricated. Amid jabs at GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and  actor Channing Tatum, Oliver’s most memorable and salient statistics included:

- 165 Billion pounds of all types of food are thrown away per year, that is, on average, 20 pounds per United States citizen per month with enough volume to fill 730 professional football stadiums. 

- 49.1 million Americans live in “food insecure” households. This term refers to households which at some point during the calendar year cannot provide basic food for themselves and go hungry as a result. 

– Food waste is deposited in landfills, where only the surface of the vast fills are exposed to atmospheric oxygen. The cores of these food waste landfills are not exposed and absorb massive amounts of heat, emitting huge amounts of methane, which damages the ozone layer 20x more destructively than Carbon Dioxide. 


– 91% of consumers throw out food not with respect to the freshness of the food but in accordance to the “Consume by” label. A common misconception, consume by dates are not legally binding and are merely unregulated approximations set by for-profit manufacturers seeking to drive repurchase as opposed to government entities with the objective of public safety. (The only type of food on the market with a government mandated expiration date is baby food and nine states currently do not have any legal requirements for even using expiration dates on any type of food products sold to consumers)

Vast landfills create Methane gas reserves, which damage the ozone layer 20x more potently than Co2
Vast landfills create Methane gas reserves, which damage the ozone layer 20x more potently than Carbon Dioxide 

During the concluding stages of the spoof, Oliver addresses the legislative flaws that fail to give incentives such as tax breaks to food businesses, particularly small businesses, that take measures to reduce their food waste. Because produce like peaches lose 2/3 of their market value if they display any blemishes or imperfections, without any breaks it is often most economic for small businesses to simply throw produce directly into the garbage. 

Oliver concludes by commenting on our most recent “progress”. Although significant advances were seemingly being made by the HR 644 / America Gives More Act in February, this act was drastically reformatted by the Senate after passing the House of Representatives , and nearly all of its domestic focus on small business anti-foodwaste incentives to address foreign affairs and policy. The act was even given a new name by the senate to reflect its diverted focus, becoming the ”Trade facilitation and trade enforcement Act”. 

While many of Olivers talking points reflected poorly on the future of food waste in the United States, his intermittently comic and earnest approach was candid and entertaining. Hopefully fresh approaches like these can be utilized in the future to spread awareness and ignite reform. 


To see the full edition of John Oliver’s routine: Click Here

About the Author

HazelBlog Staff

Article written by HazelBlog associated staff 

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