Latest research from Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and Central Queensland University pinpoints the most impactful ways to support community-based household food waste reduction education, with significant cost-saving opportunities.
Food wasted in Australian homes costs the economy $19.3 billion a year. In a time of high cost of living, households can save up to $2500 a year by reducing their food waste. For local councils, helping households minimise food waste lessens the financial burden of disposing otherwise avoidable food waste. Reducing household food waste by at least 30% is a critical component of reaching Australia’s goal of halving food waste by 2030.
The new Case studies on household food waste reduction interventions from Australia report builds on Australia’s most comprehensive research into household food waste behaviours previously delivered by the Fight Food Waste CRC in partnership with Central Queensland University.
The report’s research partners collaborated with Inner West Council in Sydney and Eat Well Tasmania to trial specific interventions designed to reduce food waste in the home. The potential of each intervention to address food waste in targeted areas was then evaluated. The project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.
Lead researcher Dr Gamithri Karunasena says three key behaviours were found to be the most useful for helping participants reduce food waste and maximise the value of groceries. These were:
- Storing food correctly,
- Leaving one night a week to eat or repurpose leftovers, and
- Learning new cooking skills.
“We know Australians don’t want to waste food and that they welcome more support on how to do this effectively. This research highlights the important role community-based interventions play in combating household food waste and provides practical insights into the best approaches for doing this,” says Dr Karunasena.
For practitioners, policymakers and community organisations, the research further identified three particularly impactful interventions that could be applied when educating households on food waste reduction:
- Face-to-face workshops – interactive and in-person education workshops focused on practical strategies, driving learning through active participation.
- Using a combination of interventions, such as workshops supplemented by informative emails – digital channels were able to reinforce messaging delivered through face-to-face engagements and helped to instil sustainable habits.
- Short videos – leveraging visual storytelling and concise messaging helped to convey key principles and actionable tips. The accessibility and convenience of videos made them impactful in reaching individuals across various demographics.
The Case studies on household food waste reduction interventions from Australia report presents evaluation results from the two trial locations, each demonstrating promising impacts. In the Inner West Council case study, 45 per cent of participants reported a decrease in food waste. By engaging in interventions, individuals who took part reported, on average, a 30 per cent reduction in food waste. Similarly, 38 per cent of participants in the Eat Well Tasmania case study reported a decrease in food waste.
Helen Bradley, Resource Recovery Planning Manager at Inner West Council, said it was extremely promising to see this level of behaviour change and food waste reduction after initial interventions. “Food waste messaging, when delivered effectively, can help us save money, help our community members save money and help reduce the environmental impact of food waste. Having expert guidance, tools and support to design the intervention and deliver this messaging well proved invaluable,” Helan Bradley says.
Libby McKay, Campaign Manager at Eat Well Tasmania, emphasised the importance of evaluating interventions and encouraged other organisations to connect with Fight Food Waste CRC, “To have had support from and access to the expertise within the Fight Food Waste CRC team was invaluable— it was an opportunity to maximise not only the success of this project but also future interventions via the learnings gained from the evaluation,” she said.
The outcomes of this project highlight the potential to implement these interventions on a larger scale, making a tangible impact on national food waste reduction.
The Household Food Waste Reduction Toolkit: A Step-By-Step Guide to Delivering Interventions in Australia, a comprehensive guide to help practitioners design and deliver household food waste reduction, was also released in March 2023 as part of this project.