Food is Food Blog

Developing and Testing a Novel Intervention to Reduce Household Food Waste

My thesis defense is upcoming 16 November 2018 at Western University and you are invited van der Werf thesis defense presentation poster 211018

Full abstract is below:

The amount of food wasted is a topic of societal and academic interest. As academic

research in this area is nascent, there are significant knowledge gaps, which this

dissertation seeks to narrow, pertaining to: (1) the measurement of food waste; (2) the

human behaviors that lead to wasting of food; and (3) the development of efficacious

food waste reduction interventions.

A systematic literature review of 55 food waste estimates showed that on average 114.3

kg/capita/year is wasted from consumption (i.e., household) and 198.9 kg/capita/year

across the entire food supply chain. There is considerable uncertainty with this data

because of the different food waste measurements methodologies employed.

Household waste composition study data (2012-2015) from 9 Ontario municipalities, that

used the same direct measurement methodology and included a single “food waste”

category, were aggregated and analyzed to develop estimates of food waste in the

garbage stream. This methodology, which showed households disposed 2.40 kg/week of

food waste in the garbage, was used as the basis of a bespoke household food waste

measurement methodology.

To better understand food wasting behavior and facilitate the development of an effective

intervention the theory of planned behavior (TPB) was used to inform the development of

a survey, which was administered to households in London, Ontario, Canada. Households

(n=1,263) threw out avoidable food 4.8 times/week and perceived behavioral control

(p<0.001) and personal attitudes (p<0.01), in particular, were significantly associated

with less food wasting behavior. Further, 58.9% selected reducing monetary loss as the

primary motivator to reducing this behavior.

A “Reduce Food Waste, Save Money” household intervention, which combined elements

of behavioral economics (nudging the desire to reduce monetary loss) and the TPB

(strengthening perceived behavioral control), was developed, tested and assessed in a

randomized control trial. Treatment total household food waste decreased by 31% and

this was significantly greater (p=0.02) than for control households. Key determinants of

avoidable food waste reduction included personal attitudes, perceived behavioral control,

the number of people in a household and the amount of garbage set out.

This research can contribute directly to food waste reduction policy in national,

provincial, and municipal contexts.

Keywords: food waste, household food waste, theory of planned behavior, behavioral

economics, waste characterization, intervention