The FoodPath research investigated
behavioural interventions to reduce food
waste in Irish households.
- Food waste is a global issue and, with an estimated one third being lost or wasted throughout the food supply and consumption chain, it has significant economic, social, and environmental impacts.
- Food waste has been identified as a significant contributor to climate change and is estimated to contribute 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
- UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 commits to a 50% reduction in food waste at the consumer level by 2030.
How it was done:
- First, the research team investigated current state of the art, nationally and internationally, in both consumer behaviour change and, more specifically, food waste prevention. Based on these, and interviews with national and international practitioners, two intervention models were developed.
- These were designed using an internationally recommended framework which stipulated framing them in a defined theoretical basis, the use of systems thinking and incorporating transparent evaluation methods.
- Based on these broad requirements, one of the interventions was designed to empower individuals to prevent and reduce food waste at the household level through tools, nudges, and targeted messaging via their local waste collector.
- The second behaviour change intervention took a broader approach and targeted the changing of social norms through community engagement via local stakeholders.
- In both cases, the delivery model was informed by stakeholder input and the evaluation methods included both quantitative (using waste collector data) and qualitative (employing householder surveys) assessments with controls in place for comparison.
In the case of Intervention A, which targeted individuals and their management of food within their homes (through sending out home food waste kits in collaboration with local waste collectors), the quantitative results were positive with a 16% reduction in food waste between the pre and post intervention periods.
For Intervention B, which involved a collaborative community approach aimed at changing social norms through information provision, training and animation, the quantitative results did not reveal a significant positive outcome. The outcomes of intervention A suggest that it may be a viable, and cost efficient, model.
However, though the quantitative results for intervention B were limited, considering the extent of interest in community led food waste initiatives, this approach should be viewed as an important precursor that, along with national awareness raising, could further amplify the impacts associated with the targeted approach developed in intervention A.
This research was a collaborative project led by the Clean Technology Centre, and involving Queen’s University Belfast and the Regional Waste Management Offices, funded under the EPA Research Programme 2014-2020.