Master thesis research proposal: How do daily household practices affect food wastage? Empirical insights from 100 Dutch households in the context of the 100 100 100 campaign

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Relevancy for Sustainable Development

This research is based on the overarching principles of the sustainable development master programme in that it seeks to develop sustainable environmental solutions for effective food utilisation. With its behavioural analysis it focuses on the changes needed to achieve an environmentally and socially accountable food utilisation on a household level. By proposing solutions to address household food wastage, it considers the short- and long-term management of these processes on a local level to mitigate its negative global impacts.

Furthermore, this research sufficiently meets the specific requirements of the energy and materials track. Firstly, by performing an LCA the research provides an analysis of the unnecessary energy and materials (as defined by water and land) use for non-utilised food. In doing so, this analysis seeks to highlight the significant negative impact of food wastage on the environment and the exploitation of finite resources, e.g. fertile land and freshwater. Secondly, the produced insights of this research can be utilised in further research connected to the following themes:

  • How will global energy demand develop in the coming decades under the consideration of effective food utilisation?

  • How do climate change and depletion of fossil fuel reserves for agricultural use interact?

  • What is the role of product design and nudging strategies for reducing food wastage in a sustainable society?

  • What policies can be implemented to improve energy efficiency as a result of improved food utilisation?

Methodology & Methods

Food loss refers to the decrease in edible food mass throughout the part of the supply chain that specifically leads to edible food for human consumption, i.e. production, post-harvest and processing stages in the food supply chain (Parfitt et al., 2010). Food losses are specified and referred to as food wastage if the reasons for losses are primarily related to retailers’ and consumers’ behaviour. This research will exclusively focus on food wastage occurrence within households who participate in the Dutch campaign 100 100 100. The campaign was launched by the waste management company ROVA, in collaboration with Utrecht University and Groningen University, as an attempt to better quantify the environmental impacts of household waste, to understand reasons for wasting behaviour and poor waste separation, as well as provide solutions for the participating households to reduce their waste production. Over a period of 100 days, 50 households are supported by individual coaching to increase proper waste separation and achieve an overall reduction of produced waste. A separate group of 50 households is supported by an online community platform. For both groups, the produced waste is codified, collected and used for a sorting analysis. One sorting analysis is performed before the intervention at the beginning of the campaign and one after the intervention at the end of the campaign. Aside, each participating household receives a questionnaire. The detailed use of different methods will be outlined in the following sections.

Sorting analysis

In previous studies sorting analysis have been proven an effective method to find the most frequently wasted food products, i.e. milk and dairy, bread, vegetables, fruits, sauces, oil and fats (van Westerhoven, 2013; van Westerhoven, 2010). In this research the data obtained from the sorting analysis will be used to analyse quantity and type of the most frequently wasted food products of the 100 households.

Lifecycle assessment

The environmental effects of food wastage are quantified by a life cycle assessment for each of the most frequently wasted product