The quantity of food waste in the garbage stream of southern Ontario, Canada households

Although it is clear that food waste is a prominent problem present globally with both economic and environmental consequences, there is little consensus on the exact amount of worldwide food waste generation as many current estimates are indirect and outdated. Direct measurements of waste streams, through waste composition studies, offer a potential strategy to develop accurate estimates of food waste disposal. In Ontario, Canada, municipalities that undertake household waste composition studies all use a common direct measurement methodology, developed in 2002 and refined since that time, that includes a broad range of waste categories, including food waste. This purpose of this study was to develop an estimate of the amount of food waste disposed, in the garbage stream, by southern Ontario single-family households using this methodology, and to assess whether this methodology could be adapted and expanded to directly measure household food waste. This article was written by HEAL team members Paul van der Werf, Jamie A. Seabrook, and Jason A. Gilliland.

Twenty-eight single-family household waste composition datasets, from nine different southern Ontario municipalities (with a population of approximately 2.2 million inhabitants), were gathered, aggregated, and analyzed to estimate single family (i.e., detached, or semi-detached homes) food waste disposal, in the garbage stream. On average, households disposed 2.40 kg/week of food waste in the garbage, which comprised 35.4% of this waste stream. Urban households disposed significantly greater amounts of food waste compared to rural households in the spring (p = 0.01) and summer (p = 0.02). Households with access to a green bin program disposed significantly less food waste than those with no access to a green bin program in the spring (p = 0.03) and summer (p<0.01). The common methodology used to develop these estimates shows promise as the basis of a household food waste measurement methodology. This future methodology would include dividing food waste into avoidable and unavoidable food waste categories, as well as adding subcategories (e.g., avoidable fruits and vegetables).

“The quantity of food waste in the garbage stream of southern Ontario, Canada households” is published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal covering primary research from any discipline within science and medicine published by the Public Library of Science since 2006.

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Keywords: direct methodology, food waste, garbage stream, measurement, southern Ontario, measurement, waste disposal


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