Innovation in Tackling Food Waste Event – An overview of the day

As part of the ESRC’s festival of social science, on the 9th of November 2015 the Innovation in Tackling Food Waste event brought together interested parties across different stakeholder groups to share, discuss and debate the timely issue of food waste and potential solutions. The event’s aims were three fold in: sharing academic research, disseminating innovative and transferable strategies to mitigate food waste and providing an opportunity for interactive discussion. The event actively encouraged audience participation throughout the day with a question and answer session following each presentation and the utilisation of the audience engagement tool ‘Slido’.

Below gives a brief overview of each speaker’s contribution and a summary of the discussion and debate. The speakers slides can be founds here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/m4c8lnqhd0d4tji/AADtX8-BNBz5-vu-B4zb55Zda?dl=0

Jordon Lazell – Coventry University

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Jordon is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Business in Society (CBiS) at Coventry University and co-founder of the International Food Loss and Food Waste Studies Group. Introducing the day, Jordon reminded the audience of the problem at hand, the need for businesses to take increasing responsibility, the need for innovation and outlined the day’s focus. Jordon also spoke on the findings of his research on food waste behaviours in university catering environments and his experience of attempting to prevent food waste via a social media tool

Professor William Young – University of Leeds

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William is Professor of Sustainability and Businesses and Co-Director of the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds. He presented findings from a 3 year co-production project with Asda to test behaviour change interventions to help their customers reduce food waste at home.

Sarah Bromley – WRAP

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Sarah is a Research Analyst at WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) specialising in consumer food waste prevention and food re-distribution. Sarah discussed several socially innovative initiatives that aim to reduce food waste as part of her work on the EU FUSIONS project.

Caitlin Shepherd and Sam Packer – This is Rubbish

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Caitlin Shepherd is Co-Founder and Director of the award winning food waste campaign ‘This is Rubbish’. Caitlin spoke about the recently launched ‘stop the rot’ campaign that calls for the retail and manufacturing sector to commit to a 30% reduction in waste by 2025. Caitlin also spoke about the need for more comprehensive auditing of what exactly is bring diverted away from human consumption across the food supply chain and for retailers to take greater responsibility for the wasteful practices they encourage.

Alice Codsi – Food Surplus Entrepreneur Network

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Alice Codsi is Co-Founder of the Food Surplus Entrepreneur Network which connects a European community of food surplus entrepreneurs and organisations that build solutions to tackle food waste. Alice discussed a number of different innovative initiatives that entrepreneurs have implemented to make the most of surplus food and reduce the amount thrown away.

Tessa Cook – OLIO

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OLIO is a revolutionary new app which connects neighbours with each other and local shops so that surplus food can be shared either for free or for sale but not thrown away. Tessa outlined how anyone with surplus food can take a photo, add a brief description, set the location and price (if applicable), and neighbours can see the item available, and message to arrange pick up.

Audience engagement and discussion

The Slido tool was used throughout the event with each speaker posing questions to the audience and individuals responding via their mobile and tablet devices, the real time results of these polls were then displayed. Below are the results of the audience polls:

Slido in action

Who are you most likely to listen to and trust when they talk about being greener?

  • Scientists – 50%
  • Non-governmental organisations – 38%
  • My kids – 4%
  • People I am connected to on social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Mumsnet) – 4%
  • My partner/spouse – 4%

Have you ever stopped or changed the products you purchase because you have previously wasted it?

  • Yes, I only purchase it occasionally – 63%
  • Yes, I stopped purchasing it altogether – 13%
  • Yes, I moved to a smaller pack size – 13%
  • No, never I always buy the same thing – 8%
  • Don’t know – 4%

What do you think is the most important policy change needed to facilitate the socially innovative projects aimed at reducing food waste?

  • Financial support (E.g. Grants; tax relief on donated food, buildings etc) – 44%
  • Clarification of, guidance about, or change in, legislation (e.g. Health and Safety) – 26%
  • Greater support provided from Local Authorities and Agencies (E.g. Time, buildings, Brokerage etc.) – 22%
  • Government promotion of socially innovative activities – 7%

Slido in action 2

Which of these options is the most effective way to reduce grocery supply chain food waste?

  • Government Regulation – 41%
  • Efficient supply chain ordering systems – 23%
  • Producer Empowerment – 14%
  • Transparent Reporting Processes – 14%
  • Redistribution / Reuse of supply chain surplus – 5%
  • Producing less food – 5%

Other

  • Food not being sold primarily for financial profit
  • All of the above! No one size fits all…

How could we push social entrepreneurship into food waste reduction?

  • Workshops on food waste for sector associations – 35%
  • A start up day for future social entrepreneur – 30%
  • A big conference on social entrepreneurship and food waste – 20%
  • An inspiration video of the best organisations – 15%

Smartphones can play a major role in tackling food waste

  • Somewhat agree – 62%
  • Strongly agree – 19%
  • Neither agree nor disagree – 12%
  • Somewhat disagree – 8%

In the afternoon, participants and speakers addressed four questions during breakout round table discussions which were facilitated by members of the CBiS team. This led to a number of stimulating conversations. A summary of points made across groups are given below:

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In your opinion, what are the most responsible actions businesses and individuals can take to tackle food waste?

For individuals:

  • Thinking ahead, planning, using what you have
  • Learning to cook in a more creative way
  • Acknowledging the waste problem
  • Commitment to alternative means of supply, i.e community food groups

Businesses

  • Reducing and preventing what is currently thrown away
  • More attention to procurement and understanding of where waste is generated in the supply chain
  • Avoidance of moving waste to other parts of the supply chain
  • Acknowledgement that business practices influence consumer’s behaviour
  • Removing deals and offers on fresh products
  • Improving the relationship with food through education, away from viewing food just as a product

Other points

  • Overall lack of the visibility of the waste problem

Where do you think the bottlenecks are that stop improvements in the food waste situation, and who has the power/skills to help break through these?

Bottlenecks that stop improvements

  • Lack of interest from consumers
  • Lack of value for food, food is too cheap, portions sizes too big, loss of seasonality
  • Cosmetic rules on food that create false norms of aesthetics
  • Dating of products
  • Shopping behaviours, daily and weekly habits
  • Government initiatives and policy framing
  • Business targets are currently voluntary

Who has the power to help break though these bottleneck?

  • NGOs and awareness and actions campaigns
  • Need for food waste prevention to be orchestrated from the top
  • Need for a multi-pronged approach – a multi-stakeholder agreement
  • Responsibilities of businesses to shrink choices
  • Tax incentives and initiatives to prevent food from being wasted

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What are some good examples/case studies of other companies/regions/countries that could be transferred here?

  • Planning and think ahead initiatives, education and guidance for consumers
  • Education programmes in schools
  • Community farming, co-operatives and local level food production – integrating production and consumption
  • Collaboration between supermarkets – non-competitive policy
  • Cut off that only 5% of food waste is acceptable, no more – transparent metrics, accurate recordings of what is wasted across the supply chain
  • Local level sharing, neighbourhood action
  • Smaller plates and portions, better planning and freezing of food in hospitality settings

Which issues require a greater understanding? What are the future priorities of research?

  • Greater research around food consumption and subsequent waste practices, how can norms be changed? How does food waste change between contexts?
  • Understanding the relationship between recycling and preventing food waste
  • The role of regulation in changing business and consumer practices/ behaviour
  • A measurement of food waste across the supply chain and the potential implications of a transparent common metric
  • New businesses models to replace the current competitive retail environment that generates waste
  • How best to communicate with SME’s regarding the waste prevention and management
  • How can consumers better understand the problem of food waste? Creating awareness, stabilising changes in behaviour