22 January 2021 by Robyn White

Wrap and ZWS partner on lockdown food waste project

Zero Waste Scotland and Wrap will partner on a national research project that will examine food waste levels during and after lockdown periods.

The research follows Wrap’s findings that food waste fell by 34% during the first lockdown

The 18-month project is being lead by Leeds University and follows findings from Wrap that food waste volumes dropped by 34% during the first national lockdown in 2020, “the sharpest fall on record”.

Wrap added that while self-reported levels of food waste did increase from this low point in the following months, careful food shopping and creative cooking probably contributed to the initial fall.

The two will now join with Leeds University on the project which has been awarded £328,000 of funding.

This includes £268,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council and as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s Covid-19 response.

The research project has been set up to understand why food waste levels dropped, and use this information to develop “interventions” for reducing food waste, when the pandemic ends.

‘Fight against food waste’

Chief executive at Zero Waste Scotland, Iain Gulland, said that the findings from the project will allow them to understand how lockdown changes our relationship with food.

He explained: “When we waste food, we also waste the huge amounts of energy and associated carbon emissions from growing, transporting, refrigerating and packaging the food, and when we send wasted food to landfill this causes more harmful emissions. So, we’re looking forward to working with the University of Leeds and WRAP on this project, to better understand how to win the fight against food waste”.

‘Detriments of behaviour’

Dr Galbanu Kaptan, associate professor at the University of Leeds, will be leading the research, and added that in particular, the study will look into “detriments of behaviour” and what impact emotions have on wasting food.

She explained: “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”.

The fifth annual National Food Waste Conference takes place on Wednesday 3rd March 2021. Join representatives from food waste processors, producers, waste management companies, local authorities and charities – to discuss the extent to which the sector has been impacted by the pandemic, incoming mandatory weekly food waste collections in 2023 and case studies exploring how we tackle avoidable food waste. CLICK HERE to view the full programme of speakers.
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