Food Path Research Project

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.


To date 3 Work Packages consisting of 4 Reports have been drawn up to detail the progress of the Project. The Reports are as Follows.


Work Package 1
Report 1 of 2
Review of Best Practice for Interventions to Reduce Consumer Food Waste

This report is one of two outputs for Food Path Workpackage 1. It consists of a detailed review of food waste prevention best practices and interventions. It is accompanied by the report: Review of Relevant Consumer Behaviour Change Studies and Initiatives, which provides a broader view of behaviour change policies and interventions that are relevant to food waste prevention. 

Click here to read report.

Report 2 of 2
Review of relevant behaviour change studies and interventions

This report is one of two outputs for Food Path Workpackage 1. It provides an overview of a wide range of behaviour change policies and interventions that are relevant to food waste prevention. A more targeted review of food waste prevention best practices and interventions is provided in the accompanying report: Review of Best Practice for Interventions to Reduce Consumer Food Waste.

Click here to read report.

Work Package 2 Report

LThe aim of the work covered in this report on ‘expert insights’ is to support the existing Food Path best practice review, and to access information on food waste prevention that may not have been formally reported, in particular, information on the practicalities of running interventions and on lessons learned from previous work. This will be used to inform the development of upcoming Food Path trial interventions and to support others working in the field. 

Click here to read report.


Work Package 3 Report
Report on the Design of Consumer-Focused Food Waste Prevention Interventions in Ireland

This Report discusses conducting two interventions in this study, intervention A will examine food waste habits at a household level, whilst intervention B will examine food waste habits within the community. The purpose of these two interventions is to make comparisons between the two intervention groups.


Key details

Project Name

Food Path Research Project


Environmental Protection Agency





Main features

Research study to identify existing best practice in consumer behaviour change and food waste prevention

Contact Details

Colum Gibson
Centre Manager
Colum is the Clean Technology Centre manager, a Senior Environmental Consultant and programme manager with a PhD in Physical Chemistry. He is an IEMA Auditor and has worked with CTC for almost 20 years. Colum has extensive experience working with industry, the waste sector, local authorities, communities and national agencies. He has worked on a broad range of topics, including energy efficiency, environmental indicators, waste management and prevention, water and energy assessments, zero emissions and waste, environmental management systems, creative thinking, innovation and sustainable community development.