More and faster action needed to reduce food waste2023-09-28
Food waste is not decreasing fast enough to meet the UN's sustainable development goal of halving food waste by 2030.
- We need to act faster with more activities, says Helén Williams, researcher at the Service Research Center (CTF) at Karlstad University.
29 September marks the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste to put focus on efforts to reduce global food waste.
– Reports show that progress is too slow, which was also recently discussed during the UN meeting about the Sustainable Development Goals. The situation is more or less the same as when the goals were established, says Helén Williams, associate professor in Environmental and Energy Systems.
What is the biggest challenge?
– The biggest challenge is that more actors in the food industry need a better view of the system as a whole to ensure that their own solutions don’t cause problems for anyone else. Our research shows that profitability comes before environmental concerns, which is an important factor and explanation behind food waste. We need to focus on and look at the real cost of the food that we throw away, says Helén Williams. Food waste is closely linked to several planetary crises such as climate change, endangered ecosystems and pollution.
Yet, Helen Williams can see some positive trends.
– Food waste in Swedish households has decreased somewhat in recent years, which could be explained by both raised awareness among consumers as well as the rise in food prices. We also see more and more actions being taken in restaurants and catering facilities to really use all resources effectively to reduce waste.
How can consumers and supermarkets contribute to reducing food waste?
– Supermarkets can help consumers not to buy more than they need through pricing so that consumers aren’t tempted to buy larger packages to save money, says Helén Williams. In one of our studies, consumers stated that 30 percent of their food waste was due to packaging, including that the packing is too big. Another concern was whether the product was safe to eat. Consumers need to get better at planning their purchases, buy the amount of food they know will be consumed and care less about the use by date. Smell and taste the food to see if it is edible.
Helén Williams is one of several researchers at CTF working to develop new knowledge about food waste in different research projects with many activities underway.
– Our research on food waste and packaging has given us a position where we, together with regional stakeholders, can move on to the next level, says Helén Williams. We need to increase the perceived value of the food so that consumers value food more and take care of the food they buy. Guests at restaurants and catering facilities also need to understand the value of what is served and of the ingredients, energy and human effort that go into making the meal they’re eating.
In the autumn 2022, Helén and her colleague Fredrik Wikström released the popular science book “Stoppa matsvinnet! – en förpackad lösning” (Stop food waste! – a packaged solution) where they explain why so much food is thrown away and what consumers and food producers can do to reduce it. The book is now being translated into English and will hopefully be released in 2024 so that more people can learn about food waste.
The International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste on 29 September was established by the UN in 2019 to raise awareness about global food waste.