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Household food waste: the implications of consumer choice in food from purchase to disposal


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Food and food-related waste is a high priority in terms of waste minimisation in New Zealand. Over the summer of 2012–2013, a survey of 147 participants was conducted on a range of views and practices related to environmental challenges and understandings. The survey, undertaken in Palmerston North, New Zealand, captured a wide socio-demographic. This article focuses on respondents’ food practices from purchase, to plate, to disposal and the environmental implications of these practices. The survey data have allowed an enriched understanding of both individual and structural level challenges as well as incentives towards improving environmental practices in relation to household food waste minimisation. The results indicated that, in keeping with other research in this area, food waste increases according to the number of individuals in a household, and in particular the number of younger people. Also, while the majority of participants were at least “somewhat concerned” about their households’ environmental impact, over three quarters of participant households put food waste into their rubbish bin. Some solutions and directions to further progress research, policy, and practice in this area are offered, and include the need for more direct and personalised communication regarding waste minimisation, along with the provision of kerbside food waste collections. It is clear that individual- or household-level changes are important and must be supported systemically by both local body and state level legislation and initiatives, if there is to be any substantial decline in food waste going to landfill.
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Household food waste: the implications of
consumer choice in food from purchase to
C.A. Tucker & T. Farrelly
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of consumer choice in food from purchase to disposal, Local Environment, 21:6, 682-706, DOI:
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Household food waste: the implications of consumer choice in food
from purchase to disposal
C.A. Tuckerand T. Farrelly
School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston
North, New Zealand
(Received 6 January 2014; accepted 18 January 2015)
Food and food-related waste is a high priority in terms of waste minimisation in New
Zealand. Over the summer of 20122013, a survey of 147 participants was
conducted on a range of views and practices related to environmental challenges and
understandings. The survey, undertaken in Palmerston North, New Zealand, captured
a wide socio-demographic. This article focuses on respondents’ food practices from
purchase, to plate, to disposal and the environmental implications of these practices.
The survey data have allowed an enriched understanding of both individual and
structural level challenges as well as incentives towards improving environmental
practices in relation to household food waste minimisation. The results indicated that,
in keeping with other research in this area, food waste increases according to the
number of individuals in a household, and in particular the number of younger
people. Also, while the majority of participants were at least “somewhat concerned”
about their households’ environmental impact, over three quarters of participant
households put food waste into their rubbish bin. Some solutions and directions to
further progress research, policy, and practice in this area are offered, and include the
need for more direct and personalised communication regarding waste minimisation,
along with the provision of kerbside food waste collections. It is clear that individual-
or household-level changes are important and must be supported systemically by both
local body and state level legislation and initiatives, if there is to be any substantial
decline in food waste going to landfill.
Keywords: Household waste; food waste; New Zealand; survey; environment
Evans et al.(2013, p. 7) eloquently characterise waste as “that which is left over the
redundant afterwards of social life that only register when the need to do something
about them has been identified”. Waste is in every way a social issue, intermeshed with
the political, environmental, economic, and cultural. It is an area worthy of investigation
which, as Evans et al.(2013) point out, has up until relatively recently been largely invisible
both culturally and intellectually.
Waste is a major concern in New Zealand, as it is globally. Research undertaken for the
Ministry for the Environment (MfE) found that the general public of New Zealand
expressed an overall concern about environmental issues, with 87% of respondents
#2015 Taylor & Francis
Corresponding author. Email:
Local Environment, 2016
Vol. 21, No. 6, 682– 706,
believing that “New Zealand households generate too much waste” (Johnson et al.2008,
p. 5). In New Zealand in 2011, households produced an average of over one tonne of
waste each year; in other words, approximately 2.5 million tonnes of waste is sent to landfill
every year (MfE 2011a). The bulk of this is not reusable, recyclable, or degradable. In
addition to space limitations, leachate containment, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
at landfill, the volume of waste produced is a significant indicator of the broader issue of
inefficient resource use (Iacovidou et al. 2012).
It is difficult to determine exactly which waste stream is more problematic than others,
given the unique challenges associated with each. However, it is clear that food waste con-
stitutes a significant problem in New Zealand, as it does elsewhere (MfE 2009). A break-
down of the MfE’s (2009) report on landfill waste composition shows that as a proportion of
total waste, “organic” waste (green and food waste) was the largest (at 28%), followed by
“rubble” (16%), “potentially hazardous” (14%), and then “timber” (11%). In global terms,
urban food waste is expected to increase by 44% from 2005 to 2025, which means global
anthropogenic emissions from food waste will increase from 8% to 10% (Mavropoulos
Unlike much of the current waste stream to landfill, food waste is an area that can
be in large part easily averted from landfill through a range of techniques, including com-
posting and local government initiatives, with the support of central government policy.
In 2002, The New Zealand Waste Strategy was introduced by the New Zealand Govern-
ment, and has since been reviewed in 2006 and 2010 (MfE 2010). The goals of this strategy
are “reducing the harmful effects of waste” and “improving the efficiency of resource use”
(MfE 2010, p. 4). While the report notes that there have been vast improvements over the
last 10 years in better managing and minimising waste, given a range of factors including
better access for more people to recycling facilities, the volume of waste going to landfill
continues to rise (this includes household and industrial waste). This is partly attributed
to increased rates of consumption and spending power (MfE 2013). The Waste Minimis-
ation Act (WMA) 2008 was an attempt to address New Zealand’s waste challenges.
The WMA 2008 was introduced in September of that year “to encourage waste mini-
misation and a decrease in waste disposal in order to (a) protect the environment from
harm; and (b) provide environmental, social, economic, and cultural benefits” (WMA
2008, part 1). In 2011, the MfE said, on reflection, that it had been making good progress
given the Act, but that it still needs to do better (2011a). Since July 2009, there has been no
evidence of waste reduction when looking at the national figures of tonnes of waste dis-
posed of at landfill facilities: In July 2009 the figure was 204,107; the most recent available
figure (at the time of writing) is 206,785 for June 2013 (MfE 2013). There have been only
19 months out of a total 48 recorded in this period where the figures have been less than
those of June 2009 (MfE 2013). Also, a waste levy of $10 per tonne of waste was
implemented through the WMA and began in July 2009. Revenue generated from the
levy is intended to promote and realise waste minimisation. However, a MfE report pro-
duced in 2011 identified that no real achievements towards this goal had been made
(2011b), as evident in the continuing increase in waste volumes to landfill.
Palmerston North is the city where this research was undertaken. It is the eighth largest
city in New Zealand, with a population of a little over 80,000 (Statistics NZ 2013). At the
time that this survey was undertaken, a weekly kerbside rubbish collection was in place, and
fortnightly collection of glass alternating with general recycling was carried out.
There are
also several recycling drop-off points in the city. Regardless of a range of options to recycle
goods, in comparison to the rest of the country, some areas of Palmerston North City more
than double the contamination rate
relative to the national average of 20% (Rankin 2012).
Moreover, around 44,000 tonnes of waste is dumped per year (at a cost of $106 per tonne)
Local Environment 683
from the city’s households (Rankin 2012). Of this, an estimated 57% could be recycled or is
recoverable, 25% is partially recoverable, while 18% is non-recoverable (Rankin 2012).
Green waste (garden and non-garden putrescibles) constitutes around 32% of the waste col-
lected in Palmerston North, and a kerbside collection service for these items has been con-
sidered as a high priority strategy for minimising city waste; as of October 2014 this has not
been implemented (Hoffart and Hannon 2012).
If the local council wishes to meet their
waste targets of diverting by 2015, “75% of waste to beneficial use”, then minimising
food waste must be addressed given their estimation that 21% of currently recoverable
household waste is kitchen (food) waste (PNCC 2012, p. 3).
Food waste can occur at any number of points across the food supply chain, from post-
harvest loss or spoilage, to waste arising from consumer behaviours with food purchase
decisions, or as “post-consumer losses” (Kantor et al.1997, Parfitt et al.2010, p. 3066).
For the purpose of this research, we understand food waste to include that which is leftover
from meal preparation or which remains uneaten at the end of a meal, and food that is left
unused or only partially used and then disposed of, and is not diverted to pets, composting,
or other useful ends. It is household food waste in a New Zealand context that is the focus of
this article though a question about food packaging is included as it contributes to the
overall context within which food waste is created, reduced, or prevented.
As aforementioned, from 2007 to 2008, the organic waste (kitchen/food and green/
garden waste) composition of New Zealand’s total waste going to landfill was 28%: the
largest proportion of the 12 waste components
measured by the MfE (MfE 2009). This
figure has increased since the 2002 2004 period, where it was around 21% of total com-
position, and was the second greatest proportion of waste after rubble (MfE 2009).
equated to the largest proportional waste increase during the last decade. The MfE
(2009, p. 9) identifies the most problematic areas for organic waste reduction as “household
kitchens, supermarkets and restaurants”, given the greater challenges arising from “the frag-
mented sources for this waste and difficulty and cost of diversion”. In short, it is the food
waste aspect that is more challenging than garden waste. This is a particularly conspicuous
figure given that food and garden waste can in large part be avoided, or is able to be reused
and does not need to end up in landfill.
In sum, food waste equates to mass recklessness in terms of wasted resources. Land,
water, energy, human labour, and capital are all wasted when food is wasted, and in the
process, the wastage contributes to environmental pollution and GHG emissions (Stewart
2011). In this article, the self-reported actions and values of 147 individuals in relation
to food waste and recycling, along with their wider environmental concerns, are presented.
Consideration is given for the fact that these are survey participants’ self-reported actions;
self-reported values and attitudes are not necessarily reflected in the respondents’ actions
(Guagnano et al.1995, Vermeir and Verbeke 2006, Brutus et al.2013, Farrelly and
Tucker 2014). Nonetheless, this survey was undertaken to help shape and recruit partici-
pants for a larger research project, and also provides useful insights into participants’
values and perceptions. The implications for better understanding both the barriers and
opportunities for environmental change towards the prevention of food waste are discussed.
One of the first major pieces of research that provided a comprehensive analysis of house-
hold waste was The Garbage Project, whereby Rathje (1984, p. 12) sought to construct an
archaeological and sociological study detailing the contents of almost everything in house-
hold refuse across multiple US sites over a 10-year period. Since The Garbage Project,
684 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
there have been a number of food-waste-related projects undertaken, using a range of tech-
niques (Evans et al.2013, Stoddart 2013). As with the research reported here, much of this
work has included self-reporting through mechanisms such as surveys, food waste diaries,
and focus groups discussion (see, for example, Baker et al.2009, Refsgaard and Magnussen
2009, WRAP 2009, Langley et al.2010).
While a large volume of research has been con-
ducted in Western developed countries to produce food waste statistics, little has been
undertaken in New Zealand (Wray 2009, Parr 2013, Stoddart 2013). An even more conspic-
uous lacuna in this field is research dedicated to understanding food waste, and how to
reduce it at a household level (Campbell, as cited in Evans et al.2013, Girven 2013,
Parr 2013).
Given these gaps in the literature, comparisons are made between other Western, neo-
liberal countries such as the USA and UK, in particular with New Zealand, due to their
similar socio-economic characteristics (developed, western democracies). Moreover,
much of the survey research cited is from organisational or governmental departments
given the paucity of academic research focussed on household-level food waste.
In this section, the economic and environmental implications of food waste are briefly
considered, followed by a review of explanations for why food is wasted at an individual or
household level. New Zealand and other Western nations’ food waste statistics are pro-
vided, which show that New Zealand is similarly placed in terms of the amount of food
waste generated at the post-consumer stage.
A Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) commissioned report released in 2011
showed that around 1.3 billion tonnes of food for human consumption is either lost or
wasted globally per annum (Stewart 2011). To put this in perspective, this amount of
food is enough to feed all the world’s poor an adequate diet. Interestingly, this same
report noted that roughly the same amount is lost in developed (670 million tonnes) and
developing nations (630 million tonnes). A particularly disturbing finding was that consu-
mers in the developed world waste around 222 million tonnes of food and that the per
capita waste in Europe and North America was 95 115 kg per year (Stewart 2011). This
means that around 40% of all edible food is wasted at a cost of around $2833 per
month for households (PE Americas 2011, Natural Resources Defense Council 2012). In
the UK alone, around 15 million tonnes of food waste is produced per year, with nearly
half of this coming from households (Johnston 2013). The cost to British households of
their food waste is estimated at around £700 per year (Johnston 2013).
New Zealand households also waste a significant amount of food. Broatch (2009)
suggests that the figure is around 40%. WasteMINZ
(2013), a key stakeholder for waste
and resource recovery in New Zealand, report that residential food waste in New
Zealand equates to an average of 64 kg per capita per year, with an average of 61.2 kg
per capita collected in kerbside refuse collections per year. Approximately 40% of
overall domestic refuse is food waste; this equates to around $750 million dollars’ worth
annually (Davison 2011, Parr 2013). In terms of the average cost per household, Waste-
MINZ (2013) state that it is around $458 per annum. Some of this food waste is deemed
“unavoidable”: “waste arising from food or drink preparation that is not, and has not
been, edible under normal circumstances (e.g. meat bones, egg shells, pineapple skin, tea
bags)”, while much of it is categorised as “possible avoidable”: “food and drink that
some people eat and others do not (e.g. bread crusts), or that can be eaten when a food
is prepared in one way but not in another” (WRAP 2009, p. 4). Last is the “avoidable cat-
egory”: “food and drink thrown away that was, at some point prior to disposal, edible (e.g.
slice of bread, apples, meat)” (WRAP 2009, p. 4). It is important to note the fluidity and
sociocultural variability by which foods become constructed as waste or not: is food not
Local Environment 685
consumed by humans but instead given to pets or used for composting still food waste? Or,
why is it that a “possible avoidable” food waste category exists when it is all avoidable if
people choose for it to be? This variability in food consumption practices and what is con-
stituted as (possibly) avoidable are related to a number of factors including, we argue, most
critically the cultural norms in a given household, and the lifestyle preferences associated
with socio-economic status (e.g. wealthier people will often eat items higher on the food
chain, and consequently may have more meat and dairy-related food waste to contend
with). Additionally, there are a range of value positions that may affect food waste quantity
and practices, including frugality, diet, and an individual’s environmental ethics. A key
point to note here, then, is that in New Zealand and other developed countries, post-consu-
mer “avoidable” and “possible avoidable” food waste going to landfill can be substantially
reduced, saving households money and contributing to environmental well-being.
When considering the environmental implications of food waste going to landfill, and
given that this can be completely avoided if alternative measures are taken to safely and
constructively dispose of it, the question of minimising food waste becomes even more
striking (Compost Australia 2010). The most critical aspect of food waste avoidance in
wealthy nations such as New Zealand at a household level comes down to improved
food-related planning and management (WRAP 2008a, Stewart 2011, Beattie-Moss
2013, Moskalev 2013).
Stewart (2011) suggests that household food waste stems largely from consumer behav-
iour, including the failure to adequately plan food purchases. This means food is wasted due
to it expiring rather than being consumed. Based on research undertaken in the UK,
Moskalev (2013, para. 1) cited six main areas whereby individuals tend to make “planning
mistakes”, which includes “size, quality, storage conditions, taste, overstocking and time”.
To elaborate, some of the key problems stem from food products that have a short shelf-life
after a package has been opened, so if the entire food item is not used straight away, the
chances of the remainder not being used up increases (an example of this is bread).
In addition to the preceding points, Moskalev (2013) found that 50% of household food
waste was a consequence of poor decisions made when purchasing food. Shopping while
hungry and being influenced by the pleasant smell of food or by in-store advertising were
contributing factors. Even though much of the food waste reported in Moskalev’s work
could have been avoided with careful planning around what and when to buy, only 17%
of participants believed that there was any need to plan their food purchases.
Food retailers also often encourage consumers to buy more than necessary with mul-
tiple-buy deals, along with producing ready-to-eat meals that are larger than necessary
(Stewart 2011). Food waste problems can also occur if a product purchased is bigger
than is needed. This is an issue that can be difficult to resolve on an individual level if
buying larger items or bulk packs/larger volumes, which are seen as more economical or
the only option. Interestingly, McDonald (2010) points to how in the past when experien-
cing times of hardship, such as during war time, generally successful efforts were made to
encourage people to produce food, and education was provided on avoiding food waste.
However, in an interview with Beattie-Moss (2013), McDonald notes that the recent econ-
omic recession contributed to food waste, rather than reduced it. In McDonald’s view, this is
because consumers who are financially strained seek bargains. This often means purchasing
in larger quantities than necessary. He does not elaborate on whether the trend to purchase
in larger quantities was related to specific demographic groups or not. However, other
research has found that more food wastage occurs in wealthier households, indicating a cor-
relation between income and food waste (Parfitt et al.2010, Stoddart 2013, WasteMINZ
2013). To return to McDonald’s (as cited in Beattie-Moss 2013) point however, the
686 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
producer or retail-driven push to purchase larger than necessary food quantities constitutes
part of the food waste problem.
A lack of, or the presence of imperfect, aesthetics is a further reason that food is wasted
(Stewart 2011, Moskalev 2013). For example, McDonald (as cited in Beattie-Moss 2013)
states that the demand by consumers as well as retailers for unblemished food is an
additional contributor to high food waste statistics. The issue with such particular
demands for products has been exemplified by the current global food system. This
system ensures that products are ordered and moved around the world from the point of
production to the point of sale with rapidity, to make way for yet more produce to enter
the system (Beattie-Moss 2013). In short, the global food system operates in such a way
that it aids in food wastage at a more localised consumer level, given the consumer
desire for perfect-looking products.
As well as there being a range of reasons for why food waste occurs, there are different
types of food waste categories. As noted earlier, food waste may be deemed “avoidable” or
“unavoidable”, with the additional category of “possible avoidable”. Of the 7.2 million
tonnes of food waste generated by UK households in 2011, WRAP
has stated that 4.4
million tonnes of it was usable, thus avoidable, food waste (Johnston 2013). WRAP pre-
sented the top seven reasons for why their research participants said food is wasted, in des-
cending order, as a per cent of all food waste: (1) inedible (36.5%); (2) left on plate (15.7%);
(3) out of date (15.1%); (4) mouldy (9.3%); (5) looked bad (8.8%); (6) smelled/tasted bad
(4.5%); and (7) left from cooking (4%). This can also be looked at in terms of how poten-
tially avoidable this food waste is: unavoidable food waste accounted for around 36.5%,
while avoidable food waste accounted for 57.4%.
WRAP (2008a) also produced a list of the top 100 food items by weight constituting
avoidable food waste produced in the UK. The top 10 items are reproduced in Table 1,
along with the percentage of total avoidable food waste accounted for by each item
(WRAP 2008a).
In this top 10, three food items are all types of breads, while five are “mixed meals”. If
each of these categories were combined, they would be about even and constitute by far the
greater categories: breads (13.8% of total) and mixed meals (13.7% of total). There is, fur-
thermore, an interesting cost correlation noted between the foods most commonly thrown
away and the expense of the item. Table 2 compares these two categories (WRAP 2008a).
Table 1. Estimated weight (tonnes per year) of the top 10 items making up avoidable food waste in
the UK.
Food item
Estimated weight
(tonnes per year)
Percentage of total avoidable food
Potatoes 359,000 9.7
Bread slices 328,000 8.8
Apples 190,000 5.1
Meat/fish mixed meals 161,000 4.2
World breads (e.g. naan and tortilla) 102,000 2.7
Vegetable mixed meals 96,000 2.6
Pasta mixed meals 87,000 2.3
Bread rolls/baguettes 86,000 2.3
Rice mixed meals 85,000 2.3
Mixed meals 85,000 2.3
Local Environment 687
Not only is a lot of food being wasted, but food that tends to be most expensive is more
commonly wasted in the UK. Food waste patterns can be further understood by looking at
the demographic trends.
The European Commission (2013) and WRAP (2008a) reports show that household
size, dwelling type, and occupancy all impact food waste production: generally the more
occupants in a dwelling, the more food waste is produced by that household. Primarily,
there was a difference in food waste between those living in blocks of flats as opposed
to those living in separate houses: flat dwellers’ food waste was much more variable
(between 1.8 and 5.4 kg per household per week) than those living in stand-alone houses
(between 2.1 and 4.1 kg per household per week). While stand-alone house occupants
had a narrower range of food waste products with a lower top-end, the average was
higher (3.8 kg). Housing occupancy is no doubt a contributing factor to this trend.
WRAP’s (2008a) research provided a detailed breakdown of food waste by housing
Table 3 clearly shows that according to the WRAP UK data, households where there
are children are those that produce the most waste, while single-occupancy homes produce
the least.
The age of household occupants is also a key influence on food waste. WRAP’s (2008a)
research found that households with young professionals or with children produced the
most waste. Households with occupants aged over 16 but under 45 years were the
second biggest group responsible for food waste. In summary, older people tend to be
less wasteful and younger people create more food waste (Martin et al.2006, WRAP
2008a); as WasteMINZ (2013, p. 13) note: “wasteful consumption of food ... falls
sharply as age increases”. The relationship between home owners producing less waste
is perhaps partially explainable when considering WRAP’s (2008a) observation that
those owning their own home tend to be older and have fewer household occupants,
which could in part be attributed to the frugal tendency of many in the older generations.
Table 2. Top five foods thrown away in the UK by weight and by cost.
Top five foods thrown away
By weight By cost
Potatoes Meat/fish mixed meals
Bread slices World breads (e.g. naan and tortilla)
Apples Bread slices
Meat/fish mixed meals Apples
World breads (e.g. naan and tortilla) Potato and mixed meals
Table 3. The average weight (kg) of food waste collected weekly from households in the UK over a
Housing composition Average weight (kg) per week
Single-occupancy households 2.8
Household of related adults 4.5
Shared households of unrelated adults 6.1
Households of related adults with children 6.5
688 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
The frugality instilled in older generations through their socialisation in difficult (war) times
appears to make lifelong impacts on their waste and recycling habits.
Other demographic factors that have an influence on food waste include employment
and ethnicity. Homes where the primary income earner can be classified as professional
or higher managerial were found by WRAP (2008a) to produce the least waste, while
those in households that are dependent on the state produced more food waste. WRAP
(2008a) also found that more food waste was generated in households where the main
shopper was of Asian origin. They attributed this to the greater propensity for this group
to cook food from scratch for larger households. On the other hand, households where
the main shopper is of white British descent produced the least.
Overall, the WRAP (2008a, p. 198) research found that household size is the main
demographic factor related to the amount of food waste produced. The full list of corre-
lations is reproduced in Figure 1 (WRAP 2008a, p. 198).
WRAP’s (2008a) findings align with the findings from WasteMINZ’s (2013)Summary
of Existing Information on Domestic Food Waste in New Zealand, which includes inter-
national as well as national research. The survey the authors present in this paper explores
some of the same demographic relationships with food waste as these large-scale research
reports from comparable developed countries, along with other factors including participant
environmental values and how participants sought food-waste-related information, along
with their perceptions of the most effective ways of receiving information (Figure 2).
A research sample of 147 participants completed surveys between November 2012 and
March 2013, in Palmerston North, New Zealand. The sample population was selected
from 2 (or more)
streets in each of the 12 suburbs of Palmerston North. The selection cri-
teria for each urban area was based on rateable property values to best capture a wide socio-
demographic. The surveys were administered to respondents, or personally delivered and
then later collected by hand. The number of participants represents the final number of
surveys administered and collected. This methodological approach was chosen in order
Figure 1. Correlations of demographic factors related to food waste.
Local Environment 689
to maximise response rates in a short time frame. The sample is not statistically represen-
tative of the Palmerston North population given the limited sample size. It is also worth
noting that it was more difficult to source willing participants in lower socio-economic
areas than in the middle to higher socio-economic areas. This was an unanticipated
finding and one that would be worth exploring in future research. Nonetheless, definitive
patterns did emerge in the data and a broad sample demographic was ultimately captured
across the surveys.
Personal information collected about participants can be grouped into three main cat-
egories: (1) socio-demographic; (2) household; and (3) personal preference, identity, and
values. In terms of socio-demographics, more female (59%) than male (41%) participants
took part in the survey, with the heaviest concentration of participants aged between 35 and
44 years of age (23%), though a wide spread in terms of age was recorded overall: 18 24
years (13%), 2534 years (17%), 4554 years (17%), 5564 years (17%), and 65 or older
(13%). A range of occupations were also recorded, with 71% of participants in some form
of employment (29% of these participants identified themselves as in a profession and 6%
in a trade). A further 9% described themselves as students, while 19% were currently not in
paid employment; the majority of this group was retired. The majority of respondents stated
that their annual household income was $70 –120,000 (29%), followed by 23% in the $48
70,000 range, 16% in the $1448,000 and 16% also in the over $120,000. Just 2% of
households said that their income was less than $14,000, while 14% chose not to answer
this question.
A range of household types were surveyed. The most common was a couple with a child
or children (39%), followed by couples (25%), then flatting situations (13%), single occu-
pants (11%), extended or blended families (9%), and sole parent families (2%). Across
those households were 125 children (described as people under 18 years old): 27 were
Figure 2. Participants self-reported level of concern about their household environmental impact by
690 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
aged five years or younger, 55 were aged from five to 12 years old, and 43 were aged from
13 to 17 years old.
With regard to information around participant identity, preferences, and values, there
were some limitations regarding the ethnic diversity of the research sample, with the
majority of participants indicating they were New Zealand European/Kiwi/Pakeha
(79%), 5% were Maori, 5% were Asian, and 2% were of Pacific Island descent, and 7%
were “other”. Compared with the 2013 Census data, this shows a slight over-representation
of New Zealand Europeans compared to the general population, but is on par with the popu-
lation data for Palmerston North (Statistics NZ 2013). Other questions included religious
identification and political party preferences. Twenty-four per cent identified themselves
as Christian, and 8% identified as Catholic. Half of the respondents stated that they were
not religious, while 10% chose not to respond to the question. With respect to preferred
(New Zealand) political party, 78% of participants responded to this question as follows:
National (28%), Labour (23%), Greens (21%), and Other (5%).
The surveys and data coding
Potential survey respondents were offered a choice of two surveys: the full version (the
focus of this paper), and a shorter version that included just one section of the full
survey along with the collection of demographic details.
The full surveys took approxi-
mately 2530 minutes each to complete, and consisted of six sections: recycling and
rubbish; food and food waste; plastics and packaging; environment; information sources
and awareness; along with basic demographic details. The main body of the survey (exclud-
ing basic demographic details) included 19 questions, some of which had two parts. The
majority of the survey consisted of closed questions that involved selecting or ranking poss-
ible responses. Open-ended questions were used mainly to provide greater context to the
closed question responses.
Data coding was undertaken utilising Excel spread sheets. Each participant was given a
code, which was then used to indicate their demographic details and their responses to the
questions in the spread sheets. A different spread sheet was used for each section of the
survey. Simple data analysis was undertaken from the coded spread sheets, using mainly
frequency counts and percentages.
Ethics and research limitations
All survey participant responses are confidential, and no ethical concerns arose at any time
during the research. There were, however, some research limitations identified.
Aside from the limitations of the sample size meaning that findings are not generalisa-
ble, two other key limitations are evident: firstly, (as has been previously noted) the data are
self-reported; and secondly, the structure and constraints of using a survey as the methodo-
logical tool to gather data. When using self-reported data, the information collected can be
difficult to verify, as only certain information may be recalled or included and there is the
possibility of misrepresentation through exaggeration or various biases, and the attitude
behaviour gap remains untested (Guagnano et al.1995, Vermeir and Verbeke 2006,
Brutus et al.2013). It has also been found in food waste research that there is often a ten-
dency for participants to underestimate amounts produced (Rathje and Murphy 1992,
Kantor et al.1997).
The second limitation concerning the use of a survey comprised mainly closed ques-
tions as the data collection tool, meaning that opportunities were restricting for participants
Local Environment 691
to elaborate on any of their responses. As such, participants were not prompted about infor-
mation concerning their lifestyles, for example. Had this been gathered, that information
would certainly enhance understanding of the practices and values held by participants
in relation to the survey questions asked. This was, however, beyond the scope of this par-
ticular study.
This survey was part of a scoping project to gather baseline data before commencing a
longitudinal action research project that explored household waste qualitatively and quan-
titatively. It is the action research that has provided mechanisms by which self-reported data
can be verified: participating households had their various kerbside waste and recycling col-
lections audited across a 10-month period, and information was at the same time collected
through interviews and focus groups with the participating households. Therefore, for the
purposes of this research, information is presented at face value with recognition of data
limitations and possible bias or information inaccuracies.
Part of the survey sought to ascertain participants’ concerns more generally about the
environment, and about their impact on the environment. One of the questions involved par-
ticipants ranking their level of concern about their household’s impact on the environment.
Of the five response options provided (ranging from extremely to not at all concerned), the
most common was that people were “somewhat” concerned (n¼67). Only a few people
were not at all concerned (n¼4), while a fair number (n¼17) were “extremely” con-
cerned. An analysis of responses by gender showed no particular correlation; but when fac-
toring in age (see Table 2), individuals in the 65-plus-year-old category appear as the group
most concerned about their household’s environmental impact. Conversely, it is the young-
est age group, 1824-year-olds, who appeared the least concerned overall.
A wide range of reasons was provided by participants for why they chose the level of
concern that they did. Those that were extremely concerned cited reasons including the fol-
lowing: “global warming and senseless waste and excess use of resources”, and “in the end
the whole land will be a rubbish dump if we aren’t concerned”. While the responses were
quite varied, three people cited their experiences overseas as having shown them what
happens when you do not look after your environment. For example: “I have travelled a
lot and seen what bad environmental care does”. At the other end of the spectrum, for
those that stated that they were either “not very” or “not at all” concerned, an equally
diverse range of reasons was given. These responses ranged from those that were simply
not bothered (“Never really been too concerned. It will sort itself out without me worrying
about it”) to those who stated that they were already involved in a lot of pro-environmental
practices. This means they were not very concerned given their existing commitment: “We
have solar hot water, extremely good insulation, [and we] compost food and plant waste”.
Of the four participants who stated that they were not at all concerned, the three females all
described having a series of practices in place already that they believed minimised their
household impact. Also of interest was that 30% of participants referred only to rubbish
and waste in their responses, rather than taking a more holistic view of their households’
environmental impact. A further 7% cited specifically future-oriented concerns: “I have 3
children and I want a happy, clean environment for when they have children”.
Participants were also asked to think beyond their immediate household, and consider
what they saw as the main three environmental issues of concern for New Zealand. There
were no options or prompts provided. The 10 responses most frequently cited are presented
in Figure 3.
692 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
By far the most cited concern was in relation to having clean, good quality fresh water,
and in particular the local Manawatu River was referred to here.
Cited less frequently than
water, but still of concern for a number of participants was non-biodegradable rubbish and
chemicals and toxins, climate change and global warming, along with conservation
and biodiversity preservation. Food waste or biodegradable waste was not specifically men-
tioned by participants. Nonetheless, while the frequent reporting of waste and rubbish as
high priority concerns for participants may, in part, be an effect of this survey having
specific questions related to this area, the concern was significant enough to be acknowl-
edged by 26% of survey respondents.
Food and food-related waste
Participants were asked a range of questions that related to food waste, including packaging
of food items. One question asked participants to assess how much food waste on average
their household produced in a week. Participants were asked to describe this as either up to
one 10 L bucket equivalent (up to 10 L per week); one to two 10 L bucket equivalents
(1029 L per week); or three or more 10 L buckets per week (30 L or more per week).
Also, given the impact of household size on food waste generation, these data have been
considered alongside the amount of food waste produced. The results of the self-reported
amount of food waste by household size are provided in Figure 4.
Figure 4 shows a pattern whereby the smaller the household size, the less waste is pro-
duced. This is exemplified by 93% of the one-person households (n¼12) reportedly
having less than 10 litres of food waste per week. Conversely, when looking at larger house-
holds, including four-person (n¼43), five-person (n¼15), six-person (n¼3), and eight-
person (n¼2) households, the percentage producing less than 10 lt of food waste
Figure 3. Top 10 New Zealand environmental issues of most concern to participants.
Local Environment 693
decreases quite markedly: 37%, 33%, 33%, and 0%, respectively. A further point worth
noting regarding these households is the percentage of people aged under 18 years old
across the different households: the proportion of children and youths in households is
directly related to the total number of household residents, and so increases as household
size overall increases, and therefore as food waste increases. Not aligning with this trend
though are the two-person households (n¼41), given that these households appear to
produce more waste than three-person households (n¼22). This may be an effect of the
relatively small survey sample size.
Participants were also asked about how they disposed of food waste, and to allocate
what percentage of their food waste was disposed of in these ways (see Figure 5). The
majority of individuals put at least some of their food waste into the rubbish (78%), includ-
ing 28 participants (19%) who said they put all of their food waste into the rubbish. This
was the most common method of food waste disposal, followed by composting, using a
waste disposal unit, then giving food scraps to dogs, pigs, birds, and the like. Methods
given by respondents for food waste disposal also included “worm farm” and “bury or
leave in garden”.
Figure 5 clearly shows the high percentage of households who put food waste into the
rubbish, as well as the household average of just over 40% of food waste going into the
rubbish. Composting food was the second most common method of disposal, but it
lagged quite a way behind food waste going into the rubbish at around 45% of households
using compost for food scraps, which equates to a household average of just under 30%.
The finding for the use of waste disposal units is also of concern, as even though these
units do reduce food waste going to landfill, they pose problems for water consumption,
sewerage systems, and wastewater treatment plants (Iacovidou et al. 2012).
To probe the question of food waste further, using a ranking system, participants were
asked what constituted their food waste. Five options for food waste types were given: (1)
fruit and vegetable peels or stems; (2) meal leftovers; (3) uneaten vegetables; (4) uneaten
fruit; and (5) meat bones or other meat-related scraps. Participants were asked to rank
Figure 4. Percentage of food waste in litres by household size.
694 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
these food waste source categories from “1” (indicating that group which comprised the
least of the food waste), through to “5” (representing the most significant portion).
Figure 6 shows the ranking averages for each of the categories considered.
Fruit and vegetable peels or stems clearly constituted the bulk of food waste for most
households, followed by meal leftovers. Uneaten vegetables along with meat bones or
other meat scraps were on par, while uneaten fruit constituted the least. Another way of
looking at this is that the largest category is a combination of non-avoidable and partially
Figure 5. Methods for disposal of household food waste, by total percentage of households using
this method, and the average portion of food waste per household by method.
Figure 6. Average rankings of food waste types constituting overall food waste.
Local Environment 695
avoidable waste, while the second and third categories are both avoidable. In short, much of
the food going into household rubbish is avoidable food waste.
Another question in the survey pertinent to the food waste issue involved food packa-
ging. Survey respondents were asked whether they avoided purchasing food goods in plas-
tics, and were offered four response options: “yes”, “sometimes”, “not really”, and “never”.
The responses are provided in Figure 7 as percentages.
Most participants did not base any food shopping decisions on the kinds of food packa-
ging. This is despite a proliferation of food packaged in plastics that are often not recycl-
able, or not easily recyclable.
Food waste: thinking about solutions
Food waste has been clearly established as a problem in terms of household waste in this
research. The survey also asked some questions that sought to explore what kinds of sol-
utions or avenues might be useful in terms of addressing environmental issues and house-
hold municipal waste more specifically.
When asking participants about possible kerbside collections and options, the collection
of food scraps was the least preferred: only 21 participants selected this as their most pre-
ferred option. Five potential new recycling or waste options were suggested: a monthly
green waste collection; a six-monthly hazardous waste collection; a six-monthly e-waste
collection; rentable council rubbish bins (rather than purchasing city council bags); and a
weekly food waste collection. Figure 8 shows that of those who commented on why
they would want a weekly kerbside food waste collection (24 participants commented on
this in total, even though just 21 participants chose it as their most preferred potential
the main reason for this choice was that food scraps constitute a sizeable
portion of their rubbish (n¼9).
Following the desire of not wanting to add food waste to their rubbish, other reasons for
wanting a weekly food waste kerbside collection included convenience: to remove food
waste from the home frequently to avoid smell (n¼5); a lack of skills regarding how to
compost it (n¼4); the view that it was healthier to have food scraps removed from house
and property (n¼3); in order that food scraps could be used as a resource (n¼2); and to
avoid having to dispose of food waste in council bags, thus circumventing Palmerston
North City Council (PNCC)’s current “user pays” rubbish bag policy (n¼1).
Figure 7. Participant responses to whether they avoid purchasing food goods in plastics as
696 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
The survey asked respondents to consider how the promotion of pro-environmental
practices could be better achieved. This included a series of questions about where partici-
pants sourced environmental information, and what they perceived to be the most effective
ways of having information delivered to them.
For the most part, participants said they did not voluntarily source information about
food waste (n¼88). Of those that did source this information, six options were provided
as to where the information might be sourced from. The survey included an invitation to add
a preferred source if theirs was not listed. Participants could then rank the sources from “1”
for the most favoured, through to “6” for the least. Figure 9 shows the various rankings for
each of the information sources.
Notably, only 40% of participants indicated they had sourced information on food
waste. Even though the figure is just 40%, it does seem quite high given that no participants
Figure 8. Participant reasons for wanting weekly kerbside collection of food scraps.
Figure 9. Most favoured sources for finding information on food waste.
Local Environment 697
specifically cited food waste as something of great environmental concern to them. Hence,
this figure should be treated with caution. Nonetheless, these participants stated that they
sought food waste information mainly through online sources and friends and family.
Experts in the field, television, and radio were the least favoured sources.
As well as wanting to know about where participants sourced certain kinds of infor-
mation, they were also asked about the effectiveness of different ways of receiving infor-
mation. A wider range of options was offered for this, again with the opportunity to add
additional sources. The options provided included the following: television shows, docu-
mentaries/movies, mailed leaflets, radio, email, public talks, internet advertising, and
“word of mouth”. Participants were asked to rank each of these as either “very effective”,
“somewhat effective”, “not very effective”, or “very ineffective”. Figure 10 shows the total
number of rankings for each category of effectiveness by information delivery mode.
Figure 10 shows quite clearly that leaflets to mailboxes, word of mouth, and television
shows are the more effective ways in which to deliver information to people. On the other
hand, Internet advertising, public talks, and email are considered the least effective. Several
other suggestions from participants are also worthy of mention. Newspapers, in particular
the free community papers delivered to households, were suggested by 10 participants as
being a “very effective” way to get information across to people, while education in
schools (n¼5), social media such as Facebook (n¼4), and magazines (n¼3) were
also repeatedly cited as “very effective”.
There are a number of levels at which the problem of, and hence solutions to, household
food waste can be viewed as one aspect of wider environmental concerns. The vast majority
of survey respondents indicated that they were at least “somewhat concerned” about their
households’ environmental impact, with older people generally indicating more concern
than younger people. Also, of the New Zealand environmental issues nominated by
Figure 10. Effectiveness of different modes of delivering information.
698 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
participants, waste and rubbish were the second most frequently nominated; a result that
seems inconsistent with the fact that 78% of respondents nonetheless place food waste in
their rubbish, including a 19% portion who place all of their food waste in their rubbish.
Food waste was found in this research to increase as household occupancy increased.
Furthermore, there was a direct relationship between increased household occupancy and
the proportion of under-18-year olds in the home. These findings are both in keeping
with previous research findings (WRAP 2008a, WasteMINZ 2013).
WasteMINZ (2013) suggested that at least 10% of domestic food waste is avoidable.
This research also suggests that there is a sizeable portion of avoidable food waste given
that leftovers and uneaten vegetables were the main reasons for food waste behind the
mainly unavoidable vegetable and fruit peelings and stems. When compared to the Waste-
MINZ (2013) research, the findings of this survey suggest that the figure of 10% for avoid-
able food waste is conservative. This raises the question of how food waste can be
minimised, and where the responsibility for food waste should lie.
An important consideration to begin with is the broader question of what it is that
entices some people to practice pro-environmental behaviours, and others to be less con-
cerned. Kollmas and Agyeman (2010, p. 239) argue that the factors which shape pro-
environmental behaviours are complex, and there are a range of factors that have some
influence, including demographic, external (e.g. “institutional, economic, social and cul-
tural”), and internal (e.g. motivation, knowledge, “awareness, values, attitudes, emotions,
locus of control, responsibilities and priorities”) factors. Blake (1999) along with Guerin
et al.(2001) also note the complex nature of pro-environmental behaviour, noting in par-
ticular how national contexts interact with individual characteristics in determining recy-
cling behaviour.
When looking more specifically at recycling and waste minimisation practices, the pro-
vision of kerbside recycling services has been found to be a key motivator for recycling and
waste minimisation improvements (Guagnano et al.1995, Barr et al.2003, Williams and
Kelly 2003, WRAP 2008b, Cox et al.2010). The other side of this is that inconvenience
has been found to be a prime barrier to pro-environmental behaviours. Hence, the provision
of kerbside collections for various strands of household waste is an important first step in
overcoming the inconvenience barrier. The simpler and more convenient the recycling
system, the more effective it can be (bearing in mind that there are a range of possible kerb-
side collection systems that have varying implications in terms of cost and success) (Aceti
Associates 2002, WRAP 2008b). This finding suggests then that the provision of a kerbside
food waste collection would be a sound idea in terms of minimising food waste going to
landfill, even though respondents considered this kerbside option the least attractive of
those presented in the survey. As outlined earlier, participants overall viewed the possibility
of a kerbside food waste collection as the least attractive option of those presented, even
though food waste constitutes a large portion of the national waste stream to landfill, and
regular food wastage occurred in most homes. Evans’s (2011) fieldwork with households
on food waste suggested that individuals do care about wasting food and do not like to
do it, but for a number of reasons (including continuing purchasing more food than
would be eaten, and given various social contexts within the home including finding the
time to minimise food waste in different ways), continue to do so.
This research has
also indicated that the vast majority of participants were very concerned about their house-
hold’s broader environmental impact. We contend, therefore, that it is not that a kerbside
food waste collection would not be utilised as it was deemed the least desirable, but
rather that the other options for different reasons appealed more. Creating a situation
where the diversion of food waste away from landfill is as simple, convenient, and
Local Environment 699
accessible (and even appealing) as possible is therefore important if food (and wider) waste
minimisation is to improve (Tucker and Speirs 2003, Evans 2011). As such, we contend that
a regular food waste kerbside collection could provide this option, while related local gov-
ernment policy could add a regulatory dimension towards pro-environmental waste
A second important facet to increasing recycling and minimising waste is raising aware-
ness around the consequences of recycling (environmental and social) by providing clear
and accessible information and education (Guagnano et al.1995, Barr et al.2003, Williams
and Kelly 2003,WRAP2008b, Cox et al.2010). Educational programmes run in schools
could be one important way to do this (Stewart 2011), and was a suggestion offered by a
number of survey respondents. Active engagement in household waste management activi-
ties can also be effective (Fahy and Davies 2007, Farrelly and Tucker 2014) as is active
involvement in environmental groups (Guerin et al.2001, Aceti Associates 2002). Conver-
sely, a lack of knowledge or confusion around recycling and waste minimisation has been
found to be a barrier (Aceti Associates 2002, Cox et al.2010). The survey also asked
respondents about how they preferred to access various information about waste and recy-
cling, with the results indicating that people will most often look for information online, and
that the most preferred way of delivering or targeting information is to use a direct strategy:
mail drops were preferred by 79% of respondents. A preference for this method was also
found in research conducted by Mee et al.(2004). Respondents in Mee et al.’s (2004)
research also noted that marketing and communications activities were very effective,
with 75% saying this had influenced their practices. Mail drops would be reliable, and
the personalisation of that information through direct contact deserves further exploration,
as part of an effective marketing and communications approach. Additionally, research has
shown that providing regular feedback to households regarding what they are doing or not
doing well incentivises for pro-environmental practices (Cox et al.2010).
The normalisation (or acceptance) of a pro-environmental activity, and the direct and
immediate appreciation of its efficacy are a third important factor for encouraging activity
such as food waste minimisation (Aceti Associates 2002, Barr et al.2003). A factor cited
less often, however, involves incorporating financial (and other) incentives or disincentives
(Aceti Associates 2002, Cox et al.2010). Aceti Associates (2002) discuss how while
shorter term financial incentives do not tend to lead to lasting results, longer term incentives
(or disincentives) can. The example cited is one where households are required to pay for
the amount of waste generated per container. A similar system is currently in effect in Pal-
merston North, whereby those that use the City Council’s kerbside waste collection must
put all refuse into certified council bags. These are comparatively expensive at NZD2.60
per bag (as of August 2014) (PNCC 2013).
An MfE Household Sustainability Survey found that over 80% of respondents believed
that all New Zealanders are responsible for the protection and care of the environment,
while nearly a third claimed it should also be the responsibility of the New Zealand govern-
ment or government organisations (Johnson et al.2008). There has been a strong emphasis
placed on behaviour change as a critical strategy by which to improve practices in the area
of waste and resource recovery in New Zealand: “Government, NGO, company and school
programmes are increasingly seen as powerful ways to bring about behavioural changes in
the way that society generates, perceives and deals with solid waste” (WasteMINZ 2010,
p. 1). The main challenges for practitioners involved in advocating for waste minimisation
and resource recovery included limited budget; inconsistencies across New Zealand’s coun-
cils to approaching the issue; not having enough time to provide education; and a lack of
training on how to influence behaviour change (WasteMINZ 2010, p. 8). The significance
700 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
of a standardised methodology for communicating messages about waste minimisation and
the like, and the requirement for well-trained, competent people to undertake this task were
also noted in Mee et al.’s (2004) research. So while an individual-level approach might be
important, the resources to address the issue at a broader, structural level are inadequate for
attitude and action change at an individual level.
Ample scope remains to further explore which systemic, structural, and individual-level
factors in combination might produce an increased likelihood of minimising food waste
(and waste more generally). Given that people are driven by different motivations and
values, it follows that a range of incentives operating at different levels would be required
to encourage pro-environmental behaviour including waste minimisation. This is where
projects utilising an action research approach, for example, can be usefully deployed.
Action research: “tackle[s] real-world problems in participatory and collaborative ways
in order to produce action and knowledge in an integrated fashion through a cyclical
process” (O’Leary 2014, p. 166). Therefore, in-depth understandings are co-created and
developed by the researcher/s and participant/s, and practical applications are trialled and
developed. Because the action research approach is applied to real-word problems, practi-
cal, local solutions may be generated. It is for this reason that the authors have proceeded to
develop such an approach to investigate waste (including food) minimisation, and why we
would encourage this research strategy to be deployed by others seeking similar real-world
Political initiatives advanced through legislation are another important part of spreading
the message that food waste is needless and unacceptable (Stewart 2011). In an interview
with Beattie-Moss (2013, p. 1), McDonald discusses ways that food waste might be
Food waste can be addressed through a number of means including policy and education
changes ...For example, improved labeling and education could help consumers make
better decisions by more clearly explaining the difference between “sell by” and “best by”
dates commonly found on food. [Also] ... there are many habits people can put into practice
on their own that would reduce food waste, and might end up being better for their waist lines
and bottom lines as well ... [people] can have a real impact on reducing food waste by being
mindful of what they buy and eat.
In McDonald’s view, food waste is posited as the dual responsibility of the state (policy and
education) and the individual (education and food purchasing choices). A further important
component to factor in is the role of companies, especially when considering food packa-
ging. This research suggests that this is not something that most participants consider when
purchasing food, yet single use and difficult to recycle packaging are commonly wrapped
around the food purchased in New Zealand. Companies are clearly driven by a profit incen-
tive rather than any kind of environmental conscientiousness or ethic. As Moskalev (2013,
p. 1) has stated, “the main aim for them [commercial enterprises] is: to make money and
grow, but such an attitude leads to a never-ending wasteful fever of mass production,
and, as a logical consequence, to frenzied sales efforts”. Food packaging, over-sized
single-serve meals, bulk purchases, and buy-two-get-one-free offers can all be problematic
in different ways for creating food and food-related waste, and are all areas that can be dif-
ficult to avoid or overcome as an individual consumer. Governments in neo-liberal econom-
ies such as New Zealand, where individualism, privatisation, and marketisation are
cornerstones of the political-economic environment, tend to take a “hands-off” approach
when it comes to intervening in business practices. Therefore, it seems unlikely that any
proactive measures towards food waste reduction are going to come from this direction.
Local Environment 701
A significant point, and one that is often overlooked when considering the dominance of dis-
course purporting that we must increase food production, is that it is much more resource effi-
cient to reducefood loss rather than increase food production. This, and prior research, indicates
that structural systems that facilitate pro-environmental practices such as kerbside food waste
collections are an important step for minimising food waste to landfill, at least in developed
nations such as New Zealand. Furthermore, there needs to be a range of measures in operation
to assist in motivating household waste minimisation practices, with responsibility shared
across a range of stakeholders (Blake 1999, Tucker and Speirs 2003, Fahy and Davies 2007,
Cox et al.2010). There is also the importance of the flow-on, normalisation effect whereby
the more people engage in recycling and food waste minimisation, and see it as successful,
the more likely it is that others will follow suit. Multiple individual- and systemic-level initiat-
ives should be encouraged to assist in food waste minimisation at the household level.
On an individual level, there are a range of possibilities available to consumers to make
better use of food that would otherwise be wasted, and also to buy in ways that have greater
environmental (as well as social and economic) goods associated with it. Stewart (2011)
reports that there is evidence showing that consumers are happy to purchase foods that
do not necessarily look perfect, as long as there are assurances that it is safe to eat and
tastes good. As such, purchasing produce directly from growers is a good option for a
number of reasons including the minimisation of food packaging. Incentives that encourage
food production at household and community levels such as planting edible produce on
grass berms and supporting community and school edible gardens are also worthy pursuits.
Engaging in these kinds of activities means that more people are exposed to the values of
home-grown produce.
The director-general of the FAO Jose
´Graziano da Silva stated that “In addition to the
environmental imperative [to reduce food waste], there is a moral one: we simply cannot
allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste, when 870 million people go
hungry every day” (Johnston 2013, p. 1). The reasons to reduce food waste are then mul-
tiple: environmental, moral, economic, and social. It should be an imperative of central and
local government bodies around New Zealand and beyond to address the issue of food
waste systemically through a range of educational incentives aimed at a broad cross
section of the New Zealand population.
This survey concentrated on one New Zealand city, Palmerston North. Thus, the results
have enhanced our understandings of the individual and structural barriers to, and drivers
of, food waste minimisation in the city. Specifically, a multilayered approach that does
the following would be an excellent way to start addressing the barriers and drivers ident-
ified in the survey results:
(1) Provides information about money that can potentially be saved by minimising
food waste, along with advice about how to do this;
(2) Involves a government-led campaign towards encouraging sustainable households
and that translates the concerns of many respondents into action;
(3) Sees local governments across the country instituting food waste collection
schemes. Food waste minimisation measures will be necessary for the local
PNCC to have any chance of meeting their current waste minimisation key
target (PNCC 2012);
(4) Utilises direct information dissemination approaches such as leaflets to mailboxes,
as well as television (or other widely utilised media) as a vehicle for food waste
minimisation messaging.
702 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
While much of the survey findings are in line with international research, it is important
to understand the various demographic, systemic, and geographic factors that operate in a
given time and place in order to fully explore the best possibilities for working towards
more sustainable environmental practices. This research has offered some insight
towards improving practices around waste minimisation in one New Zealand urban context.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
This work was supported by the Massey University Research Fund [grant number RM16580], the
Palmerston North City Council, and the Palmerston North City Environment Trust.
1. Other waste streams noted in this article as of particular interest and concern looking forward
include e-waste and nanomaterials (Mavropoulos n.d.)
2. General recycling bins accept paper, cardboard, plastics, aluminium, and steel.
3. Placing items in their general recycling bins for kerbside collection that should not be in there.
4. A number of local body authorities around New Zealand have either trialled or implemented
organic kerbside collections (green waste and/or food waste), including in Christchurch, the
Mackenzie District, North Shore City, Timaru, and in Putaruru, Waikato (MfE 2005, Thompson
5. Organic waste; rubble; potentially hazardous waste; timber, paper, plastic, glass, nappies, and
sanitary articles; ferrous and non-ferrous metals; textiles; and rubber.
6. The organic waste stream was 36% of total waste composition in 1995 (MfE 2009).
7. Ethnographic (based) work on food waste, while less frequent, also exists. See, for example,
Evans (2011,2012), Fine (1996, as cited in Evans et al. 2013), and Watson and Meah (2013).
8. The Master’s Theses of Parr (2013) and Stoddart (2013) are exceptions here, as both have
sought to better understand household food waste in New Zealand.
9. WasteMINZ (2014, p. 1) describe themselves on their website as:
the largest representative body of the waste and resource recovery sector in New Zealand.
Formed in 1989 it is a membership-based organisation with over 1,000 members – from
small operators through to councils and large companies ... [we] seek to achieve ongoing
and positive development of our industry through strengthening relationships, facilitating
collaboration, knowledge sharing and championing the implementation of best practice
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706 C.A. Tucker and T. Farrelly
... It is suggested that up to 60% of UK food waste is deemed avoidable [8]. Re-purposing as compost, however, is often considered a method to offset food waste [25], with some papers claiming it is central in defining a conscious consumer [26]. Further claims can be made about feeding leftovers to animals [27,28]. ...
... In other cases, interviews with participants allow a richer discussion, with greater flexibility toward question and answer. Quantitative studies are preferred overall as they can easily access a large sample and draw insights across populations; they tend to explore varying social-demographics and, while there is a concentration of studies in developed countries, there is a range of studies located across Europe [34,35], Australasia [25,26] and North America [3]. Three exceptions identified for this review were in Uruguay [12], Qatar [36] and Egypt [37]. ...
... Similarly, ideologies tend to be inconsistent with practices including vegetarians, vegans and those that consider themselves green consumers [25]. For some, participants are aware of the need to do more but are also careless [26,40,41]. In other cases, there is a complete lack of recognition of responsibility [47]. ...
Full-text available
Globally, nearly one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. This equals a total of 1.3. billion tonnes per year, which is a large, unnecessary burden for the environment and the economy. Research and development have delivered a wealth of resources for understanding food waste, yet little is known about where food wasting occurs in the home. The study begins with a literature review of articles that deal with food waste and consumer behaviour, reflecting on their definition of ‘waste’, approach, findings and recommendations. Having noticed a lack of convergence in the literature, and an absence of research into digital technologies for the study of food waste, the potential for incorporating novel technology probe methodologies is explored. Building on the proliferation of internet of things devices, the ‘smart bin’ is introduced as an effective intervention for making visible routine household food wasting practices. These data were then triangulated with user interviews, leading to an enriched qualitative discussion and revealing drivers and mitigators of waste. This paper concludes with some reflections on the smart bin as a domestic product and how it might synthesise previous understandings of consumer behaviour, leading to better informed food waste policies and initiatives.
... To date, information on the attitude and behavior of households in developing countries regarding food waste is scarce (Mattar et al., 2018). Prior research was mostly carried out in countries like Canada (Parizeau et al., 2015), Denmark (Stancu et al., 2016), Greece (Abeliotis et al., 2014), Italy (Principato et al., 2015;Setti et al., 2016), Romania (Stefan et al., 2013), the United States (Neff et al., 2015;Qi & Roe, 2016) and New Zealand (Tucker & Farrelly, 2016). It was noted that these are all western countries where the consumers' culture and practices may differ with their Asian counterpart. ...
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Sustainable food waste management practices at the source are directly dependent on household behavior. A valid and reliable instrument is needed to evaluate the sustainable food waste management (SFWM) research framework. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to propose a new SFWM framework on a pilot scale before starting the main research. A pilot study was conducted to evaluate the survey questionnaire’s usability and reliability. Respondents from 150 urban households in Klang Valley was surveyed using an online survey method. A detailed validation of the study constructs was done through the Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA), producing a usable final factor structure. The results confirmed the constructs have good reliability based on the Cronbach’s alpha values that ranges from 0.860 to 0.979. The results provide useful information on factors that could affect the behavioral intention of practicing SFWM in people’s daily life and may be adopted by future research on a larger scale. The article contributes to the body of research in this research context by describing the pilot test method and process. A proposed framework that integrates additional variables into a TPB-based theory was used for examining SFWM behavior outcome in a more comprehensive model. Other studies in the field were mostly conducted on food waste reduction behavior, but this study intends to close the gap of households’ intention to manage them sustainably. Besides providing a new framework for SFWM, the need for a pilot study is highlighted to achieve an improved research design, adding to the lack of literature on pilot studies in the sustainable food waste management context.
... Families with children tend to generate losses (Tucker & Farrelly, 2016), high-income families tend to be busier and generate more food waste (Marangon, Tempesta, Troiano, & Vecchiato, 2015). Numerous studies have analyzed the relationship between family structure and food waste generation. ...
Full-text available
Abstract. Food waste is a major problem that has effects on the environment, society, and the economy on a global scale. The disposal of food waste and related factors are reviewed in this article. The original literature's technical phrases have been adapted to define wasted food. This brought to light the complexity of the problem, which includes behaviors and attitudes that contribute to food waste in household, institutional, commercial settings, policies that encourage food waste production, situational, behavioral, attribute, and personal aspects. The variety of behaviors and reasons for food waste should be addressed in the prevention methods. They ought to be comprehensive to appeal to people's values, equip them with the knowledge to reduce waste, and support logistical advancements to promote avoidance. Keywords: Food waste, Residential wastage, Institutional food wastage, Commercial food wastage, Policies driving food waste generation
... Examples of such indicators may include DP, SES, and household age and size. Studies suggested that younger households waste more food than older households [25,69,98,111], or HFW amount is higher in larger households than in smaller ones [18,22,41,88,112,113]. Implementing HFW predictors may facilitate creating proper incentives for avoiding HFW among specific consumer groups. ...
Full-text available
Current household food waste (HFW) reduction plans usually focus on raising consumer awareness, which is essential but insufficient because HFW is predominantly attributed to unconscious behavioral factors that vary across consumer groups. Therefore, identifying such factors is crucial for predicting HFW levels and establishing effective plans. This study explored the role of dietary patterns (DP) and socioeconomic status (SES) as predictors of HBW using linear and non-linear regression models. Questionnaire interviews were performed in 419 households in Shiraz during 2019. A multilayer sampling procedure including stratification, clustering, and systematic sampling was used. Three main DPs, i.e., unhealthy, Mediterranean, and traditional, were identified using a food frequency questionnaire. Results indicated that a one-unit rise in the household’s unhealthy DP score was associated with an average increase in HBW of 0.40%. Similarly, a one-unit increase in the unhealthy DP score and the SES score increased the relative likelihood of bread waste occurrence by 25.6% and 14.5%, respectively. The comparison of findings revealed inconsistencies in HFW data, and therefore the necessity of studying HFW links to factors such as diet and SES. Further investigations that explore HFW associations with household characteristics and behavioral factors will help establish contextual and effective consumer-focused plans.
... Neff et al. (2015) argued that concerns about the environmental impacts of food waste are considered a minor motive in food waste reduction. Although consumers are somewhat aware of environmental issues such as global warming due to the perennial issues of exploitation of resources, environmental concern as a variable, falls behind other factors as regards intention to reduce food waste (Tucker and Farrelly, 2016;Graham-Rowe et al., 2014;Quested et al., 2013;Stefan et al., 2013). ...
Full-text available
Studies have shown how food loss and waste occur in the various stages of the food supply chain. Among these stages, household food waste in the consumption stage has been identified as a key contributor to food waste generation. Several dimensions such as food preparation and handling; consumer behavior, environmental awareness and concern; social norms and many other variables were posited by scholars as predictors of food waste generation. There is no consensus albeit as to what among the aforementioned dimensions influences food waste at the household level and the role of consumer values and social norms has not been thoroughly explored. This research was conducted to focus on the gaps, utilized a semi-structured interview for three hundred three (303) household respondents, and adopted Partial Least Square-Structural Equation Modelling (PLS-SEM) for data measure and analysis. The findings of this research reveal that food habits such as food conservation and acceptance of expiration date-based prices and suboptimal food determine the extent of food waste generation. Materialism is found to have a direct impact on food waste behavior while an environmental concern, on the other hand, supports waste prevention and recycling behavior. Moreover, environmental concern was positively linked to descriptive and injunctive norms. To explain, households who hold strong environmental norms manifest environmental concerns such as opposing waste and wasting less.
... Notably, the influence of FP characteristics on food consumption sustainable behaviors may be even more significant than the impact on packaging waste management [49]. Characteristics such as the lack of clarity about expiry dates and large packaging sizes are major causes of food waste as they lead consumers to fallacious purchase plans, with too large food stocks that tend to expire before being consumed [51]. In greater detail, information presented on packaging to food consumers is an essential input to food waste prevention, in addition to its traditional role for food safety. ...
Full-text available
The paper proposes a comprehensive and operational definition of Sustainable Food Packaging (SFP). Sustainability is a multifaceted concept, yet most SFP conversations decline it as a mere material substitution issue. The efforts of regulators, packaging producers, food companies, and consumers towards the design and adoption of SFP products are likely to fail without a common understanding of the multiple means by which food packaging contributes to sustainability. Based on an extensive literature review and the contributions of SFP innovation experts, the paper builds a Food Packaging Sustainability Framework (FPSF) that encompasses the three main dimensions of SFP, namely environmental conservation, food safety, and social value, and operationalizes them in terms of objectives and activable levers. The framework can be used as a tool to search and evaluate food packaging products, a conceptual guide for SFP design, and a narrative platform for coordinating supply chain actors, including consumers. The experimental activities applying FPSF gathered the different actors in the supply chain to jointly adopt the integrated model that distributes environmental, social, and economic benefits along the entire production chain.
... [20] Majority of the subjects in a study from New Zealand were at least 'somewhat concerned' about their household wastes' environmental impact, and about 75% of participant households threw food waste into their garbage bin. [21] Social media was reported as the source of information about food wastage by 72% subjects in the present study. ...
Globally, over a billion tonnes of food is diverted to waste streams every year. To design and implement strategies to minimise food waste, it is critical to understand current food waste behaviours, including what, and how much, food is being wasted at the household level. The gold standard method to measure household waste involves the collection of food waste in a bin, which is then weighed and sorted. Where this type of analysis is not possible, or too expensive, self-report instruments are typically used – though this method is typically considered to have poor accuracy due to recall and social desirability biases. Several studies have used photographs to measure food waste, which has the potential to significantly reduce both participant and assessor burden. However, this approach has not been well-validated. Thus, the primary aim of the present study was to develop and test the psychometric properties of a photographic tool to document, measure and report food waste (the ‘Wastogram’). Given the novelty of the approach and the potential benefits associated with scaling this method, a secondary aim was to see if different training techniques (text instructions only versus text instructions plus a supplementary video) influenced adoption and/or compliance. Fifty-eight participants collected their household food waste over one week using all three measurement strategies, half of whom were provided with the instructional video. Findings revealed that the Wastogram was as accurate as the bin audit proxy measure (F (1,56) = 3291.76, p < .001, R² = 0.98) and less onerous for the researcher to decipher food types and states. Further, the Wastogram was more accurate than the self-report measure, when compared to the bin audit proxy measure (F (1,56) = 71.06, p < .001, R² = 0.56). For participants who were provided video instructions in addition to text instructions, the Wastogram accounted for 100% of the variation in bin caddy weight, compared with 96.4% for the group who received only text instructions. The findings of the present study suggest that the Wastogram methodology has the potential to accurately measure the impact of food waste reduction program at a lower cost than traditional bin audit methods. This could significantly improve our ability to accurately measure food waste at the household level and to better assess the impact of intervention programs subject to recall and social desirability bias.
Full-text available
Nowadays, in addition to the severe imbalance between food supply and demand, only a tiny portion of the human population has the chance to have healthy eating conditions and free access to food. Besides, most of humanity has to live with insufficient food danger due to political, geographical, and economic reasons. Although increasing the food supply can be considered a remedy, it is not a sufficient measure, as a particular minority will be advantageous in accessing food due to the aforementioned reasons. In addition, reducing the amount of wasted food and delivering food to all people equally should be considered the most valid solution.
Data in England suggests that food waste is still being disposed into the black bin, also known as residual waste, despite continuous efforts to promote separate food waste collection and food waste reduction practices. Furthermore, it has been anecdotally reported that 18 to 30-year-olds have the highest propensity to generate large amounts of food waste and thus need to be urgently engaged in communication that helps them change their behaviour. This study aims to explore young adults' capabilities (C), opportunities (O), and motivations (M) that may lead to a certain behaviour (B) towards food waste disposal practices (FWDP) grounded on the Behaviour Change Wheel, also called the COM-B model, and could reveal barriers to action. In doing so, a case study approach is used via Harrow Council residents in England within the age group of 18–30 years old. The study took place amid the national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and targeted young residents within the 18–30 age group using a structured interview approach with a diagnostic questionnaire promoted through Harrow Council's social media account, followed by in-depth interviews with eligible participants. Out of the 30 residents who completed the diagnostic questionnaire, 35% reported no FWDP, 42% partial FWDP (i.e., some incorrect items in the black bin waste), and 23% reported engaging in FWDP. The first two groups only were invited to the online interviews. The interview results are organised using the COM-B model and reveal that: 1) due to Covid-19 there was a shift to home cooking and increased food waste generation (B); 2) there is a lack of FWDP knowledge, information on benefits, and advice on alleviating pests/health concerns from councils, whereas FWDP differences between councils and reliance on ‘common sense’ often create confusion around FWDP (C); 3) the council may not always provide a caddy or a drop-off/collection service, whereas economic (caddy liners purchase) and logistic concerns (e.g., the lack of a regular collection schedule, unfavourable features of the caddy, and lack of prompts/reminders) resulted to limited uptake of FWDP as the norm (O); 4) the benefits of FWDP do not outweigh costs, while feelings of disgust and a sense of inconvenience lead to lack of or partial FWDP (M). To our knowledge, this is the first study using the COM-B model within the context of FWDP and with a specific focus on young adults in England. Novel theoretical and practical insights are discussed, along with limitations and future research directions.
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A simple model was tested in which attitudinal factors and external conditions act in combination to influence behavior. The model predicts that behavior is a monotonic function of attitudes and external conditions and that the strength of the attitude-behavior relationship is a curvilinear function of the strength of the external conditions, with extreme values setting boundary conditions on the applicability of attitude models. The model also allows for interactions in which perceived costs enter into the attitudinal process. Evidence is taken from a natural experiment in recycling in which collection bins for curbside pickup had been provided to 26% of 257 survey respondents. Consistent with the model, main effects of attitudes and external conditions were found, as was an interaction effect in which the Schwartz norm-activation model predicted recycling behavior only for households without bins. Interactive models such as the one developed here can yield better policy-relevant analyses by clarifying the relationships between external and internal influences on behavior change.
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Numerous theoretical frameworks have been developed to explain the gap between the possession of environmental knowledge and environmental awareness, and displaying pro-environmental behavior. Although many hundreds of studies have been undertaken, no definitive explanation has yet been found. Our article describes a few of the most influential and commonly used analytical frameworks: early US linear progression models; altruism, empathy and prosocial behavior models; and finally, sociological models. All of the models we discuss (and many of the ones we do not such as economic models, psychological models that look at behavior in general, social marketing models and that have become known as deliberative and inclusionary processes or procedures (DIPS)) have some validity in certain circumstances. This indicates that the question of what shapes pro-environmental behavior is such a complex one that it cannot be visualized through one single framework or diagram. We then analyze the factors that have been found to have some influence, positive or negative, on pro-environmental behavior such as demographic factors, external factors (e.g. institutional, economic, social and cultural) and internal factors (e.g. motivation, pro-environmental knowledge, awareness, values, attitudes, emotion, locus of control, responsibilities and priorities). Although we point out that developing a model that tries to incorporate all factors might neither be feasible nor useful, we feel that it can help illuminate this complex field. Accordingly, we propose our own model based on the work of Fliegenschnee and Schelakovsky (1998) who were influenced by Fietkau and Kessel (1981).
This article offers a sociological analysis of household food waste and its starting point is a critique of perspectives in which volumes of waste generation are used to infer the presence of a throwaway society. Drawing on broadly ethnographic examples, the analysis illustrates some of the ways in which the passage of ‘food’ into ‘waste’ arises as a consequence of the ways in which domestic practices are socially and materially organized. Specifically, attention is paid to: 1) routines of household food provisioning and the contingencies of everyday life; 2) the social relations manifest in the enduring convention of the family meal and; 3) the socio-temporal context of food practices. Taken together it is suggested that contemporary sociological approaches to home consumption, material culture and everyday life can usefully engage with public and policy concerns about the origins and consequences of food waste.
The authors content analyzed self-reported limitations and directions for future research in 1,276 articles published between 1982 and 2007 in the Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, the Journal of Applied Psychology, the Journal of Management, and the Strategic Management Journal. In order of frequency, the majority of self-reported limitations, as well as directions for future research, pertains to threats to internal, external, and construct validity issues, and there is a significant increase in the reporting of these elements over time. Longitudinal analyses revealed that some of these increases varied across management subfields (i.e., business policy and strategy, organizational behavior, organizational theory, and human resource management), indicating unique research contexts within some research domains. Based on the analyses of self-reported limitations and future research directions, the authors offer eight guidelines for authors, reviewers, and editors. These guidelines refer to the need for authors to report limitations and to use a separate section for them and the need for reviewers to list limitations in their evaluations of manuscripts; authors and reviewers should prioritize limitations, and authors should report them in a way that describes their consequences for the interpretation of results. The guidelines for directions for future research focus on positioning them as a starting point for future research endeavors and for the advancement of theoretical issues. The authors also offer recommendations on how to use limitations and future research directions for the training of researchers. It is hoped that the adoption of these proposed guidelines and recommendations will maximize their value so that they can serve as true catalysts for further scientific progress in the field of management.
Two significant realms of social anxiety, visible in the discourses of media and public policy, potentially pull practices of home food provisioning in conflicting directions. On the one hand, campaigns to reduce the astonishing levels of food waste generated in the UK moralize acts of both food saving (such as keeping and finding creative culinary uses for leftovers) and food disposal. On the other hand, agencies concerned with food safety, including food-poisoning, problematize common practices of thrift, saving and reuse around provisioning. The tensions that arise as these public discourses are negotiated together into domestic practices open up moments in which ‘stuff’ crosses the line from being food to being waste. This paper pursues this through the lens of qualitative and ethnographic data collected as part of a four-year European research programme concerned with consumer anxieties about food. Through focus groups, life-history interviews and observations, data emerged which give critical insights into processes from which food waste results. With a particular focus on how research participants negotiate use-by dates, we argue that interventions to reduce food waste can be enhanced by appreciating how food becomes waste through everyday practices.
In public debates about the volume of food that is currently wasted by UK households, there exists a tendency to blame the consumer or individualise responsibilities for affecting change. Drawing on ethnographic examples, this article explores the dynamics of domestic food practices and considers their consequences in terms of waste. Discussions are structured around the following themes: (1) feeding the family; (2) eating ‘properly’; (3) the materiality of ‘proper’ food and its intersections with the socio-temporal demands of everyday life and (4) anxieties surrounding food safety and storage. Particular attention is paid to the role of public health interventions in shaping the contexts through which food is at risk of wastage. Taken together, I argue that household food waste cannot be conceptualised as a problem of individual consumer behaviour and suggest that policies and interventions might usefully be targeted at the social and material conditions in which food is provisioned.
This paper is concerned with debates over the implementation of sustainability objectives. In particular, it focuses on policies that address the ‘value‐action gap’ in environmental policy. Using evidence from the author's research connected with the UK Going for Green Sustainable Communities Project in Huntingdonshire, the paper highlights the tensions between national policies that are based on an ‘information deficit’ model of participation, and local research and experience that posits a more complex relationship between individuals and institutions. While this suggests the need to develop more differentiated policies based on the restructuring of socioeconomic and political institutions, the paper warns against knee‐jerk calls for more local, community or public participation which simply replace one set of generalised appeals with another. The paper concludes that greater emphasis must be placed on the negotiation of partnerships that are more sensitive to local diversity, and which involve a more equitable distribution of responsibility between different environmental stakeholders.