Following are the harmful effects of junk food on the environment:
In the US around 19 percent of total energy consumed in the country is used for producing food and supplying it to different places. Currently, most of the energy demand is met using nonrenewable sources of energy, making it important for us to look for ways to reduce the fuel consumption. Research shows that energy consumption can be lowered around 50 percent by the adoption of traditional farming and following a healthier diet pattern. The energy required to produce junk and processed foods is much more than what is used to produce staple foods. If Americans were to reduce their junk food consumption it would affect fuel consumption in a major way, and also substantially improve overall health.
In the US, packaging symbolizes waste. In fact 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, but unfortunately also harms the environment. Each year around 3.2 million tons of waste is generated due to packaging. Junk foods are usually served in packets, which also contributes a considerable amount of waste. And while paper and plastics are used as packing material, the US government has yet to take any major steps toward recycling these materials.
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 because of the liability issue…fearing what will happen if people become ill after eating the donated food. In the last couple of years, restaurant owners have been benefited by the expansion of curbside pickup programs, allowing people to pick unused foods from restaurants and then use them to produce profitable compost. However, according to a report published by the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, only 6.7 percent of solid waste used for producing compost consists of unused food.
Green house gases
Some studies have confirmed that chips and candy are more harmful to the environment than a 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 the same purpose. A study done by Swedish researchers found that some candies are as much harmful for the environment as pork meat. And a study published in February found that around 2.2 kilos of greenhouse gas is produced during the production of just one kilogram of chips.
Emission of Volitile Organic Compounds
Research has found that the amount of VOCs 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, 2,226 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.