Resource Use

New study to research effects of lockdown on household food waste

Researchers at the University of Leeds are to join forces with WRAP and Zero Waste Scotland for a new research project that will examine food waste patterns from during and after lockdown periods.

food waste in recycling binThe 18-month long research project has been awarded funding of £328,000, including a grant of £268,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.

The scope for the new project was developed after reviewing how levels of food waste changed since the start of Covid-19 pandemic.

Last May, WRAP released a report that found self-reported levels of food waste in the UK had fallen by 34 per cent. This was the sharpest fall on record and likely influenced by more careful food shopping and creative cooking ideas that looked to minimise food waste during the first national lockdown.

As levels of self-reported food waste increased when the lockdown ended, researchers will compare food waste from during and after lockdown periods, to develop interventions that will support sustainable consumer behaviour.

The research will be led by Dr Gulbanu Kaptan, Associate Professor of Behavioural Decision Making at Leeds University Business School.

She commented: “Research published by WRAP shows significant changes in behaviour and a reduction in the self-reported level of food waste in the first national lockdown period.

“While we understand some of this behaviour, we want to broaden our knowledge of why the changes came about, and how we can build on this to help people prevent more food going to waste in future.

“We are particularly interested in the determinants of behaviour: for instance, what impact do our emotions have on wasting food, and what are the personal goals and values around how we buy and eat food?”

The project will involve around 1,500 people from across the UK taking part in a survey that will look at how they choose, store, manage and cook food. Around 30 people will take part in more detailed interviews and later be asked to keep household diaries of their food wate.

It is anticipated that the results will provide insights that can be used to help citizens waste less food when the pandemic ends.

Tom Quested, lead analyst at WRAP and co-investigator of the project, added: “WRAP is delighted to be part of this project.

“We have the opportunity to learn from the considerable changes we have seen during 2020 to help support UK citizens to minimise the amount of food that they waste.

“The findings from the research will be used by WRAP’s teams developing behaviour-change interventions and our Love Food Hate Waste campaign.”