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Report: People throw out a lot of food, here's how to not waste so much

About 40 percent of food in America is wasted.

Hennepin County spent some time going through the trash this year to see what people are throwing away. It turns out the most prevalent material thrown out is food.

In fact, food and compostable paper made up 25 percent of the garbage in Minneapolis. That's a lot of wasted meals.

The county notes that it'll start focusing more on ways to prevent or recycle food waste because – according to the findings – that would dramatically cut down on the amount of trash.

How you can reduce food waste?

Hennepin County offers a few suggestions for wasting less food, like simply using up all the food that you buy. Practicing meal planning is one way to do that. You can get meal planning tips here.

The website Savethefood.com has a bunch of tips for preventing food waste. After all, food waste isn't just a Minneapolis problem. About 40 percent of food in America is wasted.

The website includes things like how to make foods last longer, like using the freezer. It also explains expiration dates and how you actually don't need to toss food just because you've reached the date on the packaging.

The website says foods past “best before” or “use by” dates are still safe. They just might not be at their peak quality anymore.

And "sell by" dates give you even more wiggle room because those are just dates the store should "sell by" so that the consumer has plenty of time to eat the food before it goes bad.

Just be careful with deli meats, unpasteurized dairy products, and anything with mold, Savethefood.com says.

If you do end up with food waste, the study suggests checking to see if your city has an organics pick-up program. Minneapolis has recently rolled out its own curbside program to pick up those items.

Other trash

The report found that overall, people are doing a pretty good job recycling. However, residents could be better about recycling paper and cardboard products.

The county also urges residents to make use of drop off sites that accept recyclable materials that curbside pickup programs won't. There are donation centers that will take clothing, and a lot of stores will take plastic bags and film.

According to the report, Minnesota has set a recycling rate goal of 75 percent by 2030 for metropolitan counties. But the data show reaching that goal is very unlikely.

If everyone in Minneapolis recycled everything perfectly, the city could barely reach that goal. Perfect recycling isn't probable though, so the maximum achievable recycling rate is more like 51.3 percent.

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