In 2020 The Clean Technology Centre undertook the research project Food Path which will continue until 2023. Food Path is collaborative research project led by CTC, and involving Queen’s University Belfast and the Regional Waste Management Offices.
This project is funded under the EPA Research Programme 2014-2020.
Food Path aims to identify existing best practice in consumer behaviour change and food waste prevention, and to apply this through intervention trials in Irish communities. This work will inform Ireland’s response to food waste prevention and the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goal: Target 12.3.
While many people may approve of reducing food waste in principle, they may not engage with it. The gap between intention (e.g. wanting or expecting to reduce food waste) and behaviour (i.e. actually reducing food waste) can best be understood by employing a dual-process model in which human behaviour is shaped by two systems. The first is a reflective, rational, goal-oriented system driven by our values and intentions. It requires cognitive capacity, and most traditional approaches to behaviour change depend on engaging this system. Often based on providing information (or feedback), these approaches are designed to educate and alter beliefs and attitudes and motivate people via the prospect of future benefits. At best, these approaches have a modest effect on changing behaviour. The second is an automatic, affective system that requires little or no cognitive engagement, and is more driven by immediate feelings and emotions. Recent work has suggested that environmentally friendly decisions are often not primarily a consequence of rational evaluation of evidence, but may be more directly influenced by emotional/visceral affective beliefs and attitudes (“gut feelings”).
In this project, the researchers will explore the use of feedback, as well as the use of feelings such as those arising from anticipated regret, “self-affirmation”, or others to lead to behaviour change in food waste practices among households in Ireland. The project sets out to:
- Provide a critical review of current best practice in household-level food waste prevention, to analyse the effectiveness of the current food waste prevention models against identified alternative behaviour change interventions and subsequently provide insight into the future format of food waste prevention initiatives in Ireland.
- Identify and analyse relevant international best-practices in household-level food waste prevention using behaviour change techniques.
- Identify and analyse best practice in other similar consumer behaviour fields
- Determine the effectiveness of the current waste prevention actions in Ireland through the use of both existing data and the generation of new, more long-term indicators of consumer behaviour change.
- Design a framework for the food waste prevention actions to implement best practice behavioural change
- Implement a behaviour intervention protocol, conducting a statistical analysis of the data collected and providing recommendations on the most suitable behaviour intervention to reduce food waste in Ireland.
The qualitative data provided through detailed longitudinal investigation of current interventions will allow a critical review of these modes of interaction as nudges for change. This information, allied to the state-of-the-art review, will be used to identify a series of case studies for assessment. Through applying different levels of interaction in a designed manner, and supporting this with analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data, the project team will provide policy makers with an outline of the best opportunities for addressing Ireland’s food waste and ensuring that we can achieve our SDG and EU targets.