Food waste, Loss, Surplus, and Valorisation Innovation Forum

By Jordon Lazell @jlazell

In order to further any topic of concern, first you must gather experts to understand where current knowledge lies and where the research agenda should go next. Last week I was invited to a workshop thats purpose was to generate research questions to tackle the problem of food waste. Organised by Christian Reynolds and hosted by SheFF, the University of Sheffield’s Sustainable Food Future group, the forum brought together academics and practitioners working the areas of food waste, loss, surplus, valorisation and overconsumption to clarify and narrow down the UK and wider global research agenda into the most important and most impactful research questions.

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Before the event 102 people submitted their top research questions electronically, these were grouped into 48 different topic areas. The first task of the day was to amalgamate similar questions and acclimatised ourselves with the range of topics under consideration. Each participant then selected the three questions they deemed most critical. After re-writing and re-wording questions to ensure their premise was clear, we were left with 49 questions all of which were key priorities, yet this number still had to be halved. To achieve this, each participant gave a score of 1 (of least importance) to 4 (of most importance) to each question, with factors such as how achievable the question is and the level of impact it could deliver also considered. After the scores were tallied we were left with a final 25, that after some further polishing, were finalised.

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At points this was not an easy process, there were several subjects of debate. For example how preventing food waste in one area of the supply chain may have knock on effects elsewhere. Discussions also featured the need for the questions to be representative of both developed and developing world context, such as being inclusive of consumers who mainly consume food they produce themselves, amongst other points.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. I was struck by how involving this method of ‘brainstorming’ proved to be, with no single voice being considered above the rest. The suggestions made by each participant were equally considered via the democratic process of voting. I really enjoyed discussing the intricacies of the research questions proposed with the others at the event and it was fantastic to see the breadth of issues that were initially submitted, ranging from the role that insect eating could play to the usage of eye tracking marketing to food waste measurement models, the influence of gender and different cultures to urbanisation, packaging aesthetics and even a type of African mould. It was a tough challenge to narrow down the questions, but through Christian’s guidance and adherence to a clear process, collectively the output was a succinct and representative list of priority questions which are critical in taking forward to tackle the problem of food waste across all stages of the supply chain.

A report and journal paper is currently in preparation with the key questions to be disseminated soon.

Visiting the University of Toronto – Bracing the cold to progress waste scholarship

By Jordon Lazell @jlazell 

At the end of January/ start of February 2018, I was invited to visit the University of Toronto (UofT) in Canada by Tammara Soma, PhD student in Department for Geography and Planning in the School of Graduate studies. This blog shares some experiences of the trip.

Visiting Canada in winter I expected the weather to be cold, however on arriving at the airport I was surprised how warm it was. With no sign of snow on the ground I was rethinking the several layers of jumpers I bought in my hand luggage for when I arrived. However this did not last long, and as I learnt over the week the weather is very changeable. Monday, my first day visiting UofT was a cold but bright morning that turned into heavy snow and -10 degrees in the afternoon. This was the weather I was expecting. It even reached -14 one day which was getting to the point of being unbearable to walk around in.

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This was a halls of residence, one of many historically ‘styled’ buildings

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The shocking amount of food wasted at Christmas and how to prevent it

By Jordon Lazell @jlazell

Its Christmas time and the problem of food waste rears its head once again. Households are continuing to throw away vast amounts of perfectly editable food and the festive season is a key culprit.

It is estimated that a staggering 74 million minced pies are thrown away each Christmas and 4.2 million plates of turkeys and trimmings are also going straight in the bin. This isn’t just a shocking waste of the time, money and effort put into growing, manufacturing, transporting and cooking food that is ultimately wasted but this also has a detrimental impact on the environment given that food and drink accounts for 20% of the UK’s CO2 emissions.

So why are we wasting so much food over this period? There is no simple explanation. Many of the reasons stem from why food is wasted throughout the year. This includes over purchasing, improper food storage, poor planning and a lack of understanding of date labelling amongst other factors. However there are some reasons for food waste that maybe unique to Christmas.

Research has shown that much of what we waste relates to the habitual way in which we plan, shop and eat, meaning that the habits and routines of everyday life shape our food waste behaviours. Christmas is a time of interruption and disruption of routines making it a prime candidate for wasting food.

Picture the scene, your whole family are coming round for Christmas dinner. You want to impress and ensure everyone has their favourite foods and that there is plenty to go around. After a mammoth supermarket shop, planning and cooking a feast, the meal is a success and a Christmas to remember. But wait, did all the food get eaten? You were overzealous with the amount vegetables needed and a collection of sweet treats that weren’t quite to everyone’s liking remain. These leftovers haunt your fridge and hide in containers behind various sauces and alcoholic beverages over the next few days. But despite the best intentions, and due to eating out more often than usual, the food gets thrown away.

There is a lack of research on why food is wasted at seasonal periods like Christmas. Catering for others is often interpreted as ensuring there is more than enough to go around and it’s much more difficult to keep track of food’s degradation in a fuller fridge. Normal practices of planning out meals and cooking to portion sizes during a typical working week go out the window given the change to schedules that revolve around relaxing and unwinding. Don’t despair however, there are many things you can do to prevent food waste this Christmas.

Firstly planning. At Christmas this becomes even more important to ensure that food is bought, stored and used at the right time. There is a variety of time saving advice for being organised and taking the stress out of preparing food for the big day. Two out of five people worry about under or over cooking their turkey and planning ahead can help prevent this.

Secondly, taking control and managing the Christmas shopping is absolutely vital to ensure all the essentials are covered but at the same time you don’t go over board and shop like you are catering for 50. Being a savvy shopper means always taking a list and being wise about deals and promotions especially since food waste has been linked to shopping behaviours.

Thirdly, staying calm and remembering that you are cooking for your family and not professional chefs. Food waste due to over compensating and wanting to provide and impress has been documented. Cooking should be an enjoyable part of Christmas.

Finally, redistribute and use up leftovers. Plan when the famous turkey curry will be cooked and make sure family and friends take home any excess food. Keep on top that extra food in the fridge, pay attention to use by dates, use your own judgement of how long items will last where necessary and use the freezer to prolong the life of food. Love Food Hate Waste provide advice on how to handle leftovers as well as plenty of innovative recipes and resources on how to best use up surplus Christmas food.

 

 

 

Foodwastestudies session at the European Roundtable for Sustainable Consumption and Production

By Jordon Lazell @jlazell

The 18th occurrence of the European Roundtable on Sustainable Production and Consumption (ERSCP17) featured a session on ‘food and waste’ organised by the International Food Waste and Food Loss Studies Group, chaired by myself, Jordon Lazell, and Professor Piergiuseppe Morone (Unitelma Sapienza University of Rome). The conference took place in Skiathos, Greece from the 1st to the 5th of October with the special session scheduled for Monday the 1st. The food and waste special session was one of a number of sessions that covered areas such as the circular economy, waste management, eco design, innovation and efficiency, smart cities and business strategies for sustainable production and consumption.

Despite the submission of 8 abstracts, 3 speakers were present and gave presentations. This included myself, Piergiuseppe and Marie Hebrok, a PhD student from Consumption Research Norway (SIFO). The session produced up a number of interesting findings and follow up conversations. I first presented some of the findings of my PhD, showing how wider sets of practices, such as working and commuting practices, influence consumption and subsequent wastage of food. Piergiuseppe followed who presented his research in development that investigated which policy actions might modify the current unsustainable food consumption models in order to achieve a significant reduction in food waste. Marie Hebrok rounded off the session discussing her research on the underlying structural drivers of food waste by studying everyday practices related to food.

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Marie discusses how consumers are tasked with negotiated a web of contextual measures, such as planning, health, diversity and thrift and how the performance or non-performance of these are causing food waste.

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Piergiuseppe presents the findings of the fuzzy inference simulation which assessed the use of food waste reduction language, mapping of causal-effect relationships by experts and drivers to potentially discourage unsustainable consumer behaviour.

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Research Insight – Business strategies to mitigate food waste

Recent graduate Rocha Liliana shares the findings of her Master’s thesis which provided a comparative analysis of policies, strategies and different approaches between businesses and organisations working to mitigate food waste from supermarkets.

Her master’s thesis investigated how food waste occurs within the different stages of the supply chain showing that waste is generated in every stage and that supermarkets waste at least 115000 tonnes every year which is equivalent to £0.65 billion in the UK. Food waste occurs due to food loss, lack of education and awareness. The economic and environmental consequences have shown to require immediate action. The environmental impacts varied from gas emissions, unnecessary use of natural resources but also from destroying biodiversity in order to produce food. Regarding the methodology, the researcher chose an interpretivist philosophy and inductive approach using qualitative case studies alongside secondary data.

The discussions and findings section implemented the concept of CSR together with the stakeholder and legitimacy theory which were applied to Tesco and WRAP demonstrating that the strategies that supermarkets develop are mainly based on stakeholder pressure, societal views and media publicity. WRAP played a major role by working together with the government but also by helping businesses and supermarkets like Tesco by giving advice to achieve food waste reduction. The four obligations of CSR were also examined. The ethical responsibility demonstrated to be of major importance, this was identified to be included in Tesco’s and WRAP’s practices. The strategies had a direct link with positive ethical actions and representation of CSR. The legal responsibility looked at how Tesco obeys current laws which regulate the retail industry. However, after examining how laws in France had a positive impact on this field, it was identified that Tesco goes beyond its legal responsibilities and combines their strategies with ethical responsibilities.

The food waste pyramid has shown to suit the concept of CSR. The different stages such as prevention which included redistribution to people were identified as ethical but also as philanthropic responsibilities. Tesco was shown to cover these responsibilities. The remaining stages (animal feed, recycling and recovery) were analysed and were shown to contribute towards ethical responsibility.

The summary above provides some interesting insights into the interplay between the food waste problem in the food business world and how CSR is constructed and put into practice. WRAP are a key player in how such retailers develop such CSR actions and continue to work towards food waste reduction targets. The thesis poses questions around the extent to which businesses go beyond the standards set of in law and the influence of advisory organisations. Furthermore with the upcoming ‘brexit’ it will be interesting to see how food waste legislation originating from EU directives, such as the implementation of the food waste hierarchy, will be re-negotiated into UK law.

 

Research insight – The new norms of food waste at the curb

New research by Dr. Sally Geislar explores household behaviours in the context of organic collection programmes

The paper raises a number of interesting questions around the rapid development and implementation of organic collection programmes. Improvements in the deployment of curbside carts, collection fleets and new technologies for processing facilities have increased the uptake and sustainability of curbside food waste collection however little attention has been focused on household behaviours.

Using norm communication, the paper shows how increased participation results from more supportive infrastructure and social innovations such as communication of social norms of separation.

The full paper can be found here:

 

More information about Sally and her research can be found here – www.sallygeislar.weebly.com