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When you don’t clean your plate, microbes feast. And Americans are awfully good at feeding microbes, wasting some 222 million metric tons of food a year. That’s a quarter of our food.

Much of that wasted food ends up in garbage dumps, turned by microbes into methane, a powerful greenhouse gas and one of the primary culprits behind global warming.

In the US at least, most of that happens between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

The holidays mean a tripling in tossed out, perfectly good food—an extra 5 million metric tons of sustenance that could be going to the more than 17 million Americans still going hungry every day. Or the billion people worldwide who don’t get enough food. And then there are all the environmental problems caused by the agriculture to produce that food in the first place—from an excess of manure to dead zones caused by fertilizer runoff.

[Via Scientific American]