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What behaviours drive food waste?

The challenge: Enhancing the Love Food Hate Waste program by understanding the behavioural drivers behind food waste.

Partner: NSW Environment Protection Authority

Year: 2017

In New South Wales, the average household disposes of around six litres of food waste per week. 

The Love Food Hate Waste (LFHW) program, run by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), raises awareness about the environmental, economic and social impacts of food waste as a strategy to reduce the amount of food waste being sent to landfill.

What did we do?

To assist in the ongoing development of the LFHW program, the EPA asked BehaviourWorks to conduct a Rapid Evidence and Practice Review of household food waste and behaviour.

What did we find?

The reviews revealed just how complex food waste avoidance behaviours are, and showed that there are significant gaps in the academic literature on the topic worldwide. 

The researchers suggested that this knowledge gap may be due to the fact that food waste is not a behaviour in itself; rather that certain behaviours add up to food being wasted or not (i.e. purchasing too much food when shopping or writing a list and eating leftovers). 

The report concluded that, while food waste education programs like Love Food Hate Waste are effective in helping people to reduce food waste, more work needs to be done to understand how certain behaviours impact food waste in practice. 

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The researchers recommended further research be undertaken to ‘untangle’ some of the complexity around the issue to enable the EPA to target funds to where they are most needed.

They also identified opportunities through existing NSW programs to conduct experiments with NSW households to test various ideas and interventions. 

This is an important issue with multiple impacts, including the cost to individual households wasting food, so we look forward to revealing further insights in the future.