Food waste New Zealand: a case study investigating the food waste phenomenon

Parr, Harriet
Frommherz, Gudrun
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

Food waste is an increasing concern for Governments in developed countries and in New Zealand it is estimated that the annual value of household food waste is 750 million dollars. The looming crisis in global food security including food waste has resulted in a detailed report from the United Kingdom’s Institute of Mechanical Engineers, IMechE’s (2013) which concluded that education is critical to help consumers lower their generation of food waste; and that policy changes led by Governments, must be introduced, to tackle this escalating problem.

In New Zealand information on food waste is scarce however statistical evidence does show each household discards food valued at 450 dollars annually (Davison, 2011) yet ironically, 270 000 children in New Zealand live in poverty, where many do not have enough food to eat (Collins, 2012). This research aims to investigate the issues of household food waste, from the perspective of consumers, to discover if practical techniques can be applied to alleviate household food waste.

Currently, advertising and marketing campaigns to enable consumers to think about their household’s food waste, instigated by Government or educational organisations are nonexistent. Also co-operation with supermarkets and food manufacturers to educate their consumers about the implications of creating food waste which would begin to address some consumer concerns raised in this research is unavailable. As with other issues of sustainability will it be consumer pressure or economic policy makers who will drive information transparency and best practice?

Disposal methods, and landfill diversion of food waste was not the focus of the case study. Rather the practical implementation of food waste reduction methods from website information and suggestions was important. Adding to the case study family’s problem was that alternative food waste disposal methods, to divert food waste such as composting, or green waste collection services, were unavailable, in Auckland the service was not provided by Government. A case study methodology was used to underpin this research. The importance of using an in depth case study is highlighted by determining whether or not website information is informative enough to induce household behavioural change.

The value of website information is a priority for this research as the thesis tested if informative suggestions from websites could encourage a change in waste behaviour. The relationship between the case study family, website information and amounts of food waste is analysed throughout the project and is vital to inform the research about successful methods of reduction. The outcomes of this study outlined information techniques which the family applied to the experiment. In theory these methods could be used in further research to test another family’s waste calculations.

Overall findings from this research revealed that with the correct education, tools and techniques, a household can reduce food waste to a minimum. Connecting waste reduction methods via a virtual knowledge sharing system would provide consumers, producers and Government agencies with the option to create and exchange food waste reduction concerns and techniques.

Food , Waste , Sustainability , Case-study , Consumption , Communication
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