Americans are hooked to fast food and junk food and the craze for eating junk food and fast food is widespread among people of all ages. These processed foods have fat and sugar, and they have enormous negative effects on our health. We have developed a habit of consuming fast and junk foods while performing routine tasks despite knowing that they are not good for our health. The consumption of junk foods is not only bad for our health, but they also affect our environment. Following are the harmful effects of junk food on the environment.
1. Fuel consumption
In the US around 19 percent of total energy consumed in the country is used for producing food and supplying them to different places. Currently, most of the energy demand is met using nonrenewable sources of energy, making it important for us to look for the ways that can be used to reduce the fuel consumption. Research shows that energy consumption can be reduced by around 50 percent by the adoption of traditional farming and following healthier diet pattern. The energy required to produce junk and processed foods is much more than what is used to produce staple foods. If the Americans reduce their junk food consumption then it would affect the fuel consumption in a major way and also help in improving their health condition.
2. Packaging waste
In the US, packaging symbolizes waste with around one-third of municipal waste in the United States is contributed by packaging. There is no denying the fact that the use of modern packaging methods has played an important role in making our life easier because they make the process of food preparation and storage easy. Proper packaging increases the shelf life of food products. It is, however, unfortunate that packaging also harms the environment. Every year around 3.2 million tones of waste are added due to packaging. Junk foods are usually served in packets and the materials used for packing junk foods are contributing considerable amount of waste. Paper and plastic are used as packing material and the US government is yet to take any major step to recycle these waste materials.
3. Fast food waste
We have often seen that foods go unused in many restaurants and they are not very active in donating this food to people. A survey found in 1995 that many restaurants prefer not to donate food due to liability issue, fearing what will happen if people fall sick after eating the food donated by them. In the last couple of years, the restaurant owners have been benefited by the expansion of curbside pickup programs, allowing them to pick unused foods from restaurants and then use them to manufacture profitable compost. According to a report published by the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, only 6.7 percent of the solid waste used for producing compost consists of unused food.
4. Green house gases
Some studies have confirmed that chips and candy are more harmful to the environment than slice of bread or apples. We know that the reduction of red meat consumption would reduce our carbon footprint, but recent studies have shown that reduction of the intake of junk food will also serve same purpose. A study done by Swedish researchers found that some candies are as much harmful for the environment as pork meat. A study published in February found that around 2.2 kilos of greenhouse gas is produced during the production of one kilogram of chips.
5. Emission of VOCs
Research has found that the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOC) generated when a fast food joint cooks four normal sized hamburgers is equal to the amount emitted when a current model car is driven for 1000 miles. In New Jersey, 2226 tons of particulates released by 16,000 restaurants are more than the amount of particulates released by all the diesel-powered vehicles in the state.