Reducing Food Waste in Households

Each year, one-third of all food produced around the world ends up in landfill. That’s over 1 billion tonnes of uneaten food. This becomes a problem because wasting food feeds climate change.

Food accounts for 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that does not include emissions produced by producing the food itself, nor transporting food, and other activities to bring food from the farm to your table.

One Australian organisation committed to tackling food waste is OzHarvest, who wanted to develop an impactful campaign to inspire citizen action. They approached BWA to help understand this complex issue and conduct new research into which behaviours matter the most. The findings from the research later informed OzHarvest’s Use-It-Up campaign that launched on International Food Loss and Waste Day 2021.

The challenge:
Identifying, and prioritising, behaviours to reduce food waste at home

What’s the problem?

Australian households throw out 2.5 million tonnes of food each year and about 70% of this is edible food. It costs households on average  $2,000 - $2,500 each year. 

Changing behaviour at a household level is critical to addressing the problem of food waste.

What did we do?

To help identify behaviours that reduce the amount of food Australians throw away, we reviewed Australian and international literature and together with OzHarvest held online workshops with 30 experts to collate a list of 36 actions to reduce food waste.

To prioritise the most appropriate  behaviours for the campaign, we first surveyed national and international food waste experts, asking them to rank behaviours based on their impact in reducing food waste. We then surveyed 1,600 Australian households about the current participation in these behaviours and their perceptions of the effort associated with each one.

We then plotted these insights on an impact-likelihood matrix, which provides a visual decision making tool for different behaviours to target, based on their impact, likelihood of uptake (relative ease) and their current adoption rates. 

What did we find?

The impact-likelihood matrix revealed a number of interesting patterns, including a cluster or behaviours that were high impact and had a high likelihood of uptake (relatively easy) and another cluster of high impact behaviours that had a lower likelihood of uptake (relatively harder). This suggests an initial focus on the first cluster (low hanging fruit) and a longer term focus on the second cluster.

Mapping current adoption rates over these behaviours helped to prioritise further within each cluster. The final selection of target for OzHarvest based on impact, likelihood and current adoption was:

  • Once a week cook a meal that combines any good that needs using up.
  • In the fridge or pantry, create a space for any food that needs using up (a ‘use-it up’ shelf).
  • Before preparing a meal, check how many in the household will be there to eat.

Using insights to build a campaign

Armed with these insights, OzHarvest developed the campaign Use-It-Up targeting the most impactful behaviours, including (1) having a Use-It-Up shelf, and, (2) cooking a weekly Use-It-Up meal.

To get the nation on board and inspire behavioural change, OzHarvest worked with creative agency R/GA to design a new product to make it easy for people to waste less at home. The Use-It-Up tape - helps you see what food needs using up by marking out a shelf or space in your fridge, freezer of pantry or using as stickers on food or containers. 

You can find out more about this research from the OzHarvest website and from this Conversation article.  

Next steps

The Use It Up campaign launched on 29th September (International Food Loss & Waste Day) and is gathering momentum across the country. To help build long-term behavioural change OzHarvest is planning further elements for roll out over the next 6 - 8 months. BWA will be assisting in running surveys to capture the food waste and behavioural impact of the Use It Up tape. 

Have a project for us?

We'd love to help you unpack the problem. Get in touch.

Thanks for your interest.

Your message has been received.
We'll be in touch shortly.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.