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Harris Poll: Americans More Worried About Food Waste Than Air Pollution

Image credit: Sealed Air

Almost two-thirds of grocery shoppers in the US (63 percent) are more concerned with food waste than other issues such as air pollution (59 percent), water shortages (57 percent), climate change (53 percent) and genetically modified foods (52 percent), according to a new Harris poll.

The poll, commissioned by Sealed Air Corporation, evaluated Americans’ food habits,

Sealed Air food waste infographic
Click for full infographic

sustainability practices, and overall awareness of food waste issues. The study’s key findings show that while there is growing concern and awareness of how much food is wasted in the United States, most American grocery shoppers still don’t consider their own households to be wasteful or a part of the problem.

While food packaging plays a key role in preventing waste, the Sealed Air study also found that American grocery shoppers:

  • associate food packaging more with safety than waste;
  • see discarded packaging as worse for the environment than food waste and food that has minimal or no packaging being more environmentally friendly; and
  • will often behave contrary to their beliefs (in the last six months, 40 percent have removed original packaging on store-bought foods and repackaged it).

“Grocery shoppers have troubling misperceptions about food packaging, and mistakenly view it as a contributor to food waste rather than correctly acknowledging its role as food preserver,” said Ron Cotterman, VP of Sustainability at Sealed Air Cotterman. “We believe that by better understanding where and why food is wasted we can generate increased awareness and identify opportunities to help change consumer behavior and prevent food waste.”

A 2013 study by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found a similar disconnect in UK consumers' attitudes toward food packaging: While shoppers generally understand that packaging is an important factor in transporting food to the grocery store and keeping it fresh there, only 13 percent believe it plays the same role at home. Thus, the 'Fresher for Longer' campaign aimed to change this.

Meanwhile, FoodLoop, winner of this year's Sustainable Brands Innovation Open, is attempting to help mitigate food waste before it leaves the supermarket. The app promotes discounted "best before date" on-sale deals in real time, directly to users' smartphones, thus incentivizing their purchases and preemptively eliminating unnecessary food waste.


Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a sustainability strategist and storyteller on Edelman's Business + Social Purpose team where he works with some of the world's leading brands on corporate sustainability strategy and stakeholder engagement. With several years of… [Read more about Mike Hower]