New HEAL Study: “Reduce Food Waste. Save Money”: Testing a Novel Intervention to Reduce Household Food Waste

A team of researchers led by Paul van der Werf with Jamie Seabrook and Jason Gilliland, published a study entitled: “Reduce Food Waste. Save Money: Testing a Novel Intervention to Reduce Household Food Waste”.

Wasting food results in a confluence of negative monetary, environmental, and social impacts. There is substantial academic and societal interest in finding ways to intervene to reduce food wasting, particularly at the household level. This interest has largely focused on avoidable food waste, which is defined as food that was, at one point, edible: as opposed to unavoidable food waste (e.g., vegetable peels, bones). Despite the growing interest, knowledge gaps exist in our understanding of what drives food wasting behavior how to develop effective policies and programs to reduce household food wasting, and how to adequately evaluate interventions. The overarching purpose of this study was to develop and pilot test a theoretically informed intervention to reduce household food wasting and to evaluate its effectiveness through a randomized controlled trial (RCT).

An intervention, which used elements of the theory of planned behavior, was developed and tested in a RCT involving households in the city of London, Ontario, Canada. A bespoke methodology involving the direct collection and measurement of food waste within curbside garbage samples of control (n = 58) and treatment households (n = 54) was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.

A comparison of garbage samples before and after the intervention revealed that total food waste in treatment households decreased by 31% after the intervention and the decrease was significantly greater (p = .02) than for control households. Similarly, avoidable food waste decreased by 30% in treatment households and was also significantly greater (p = .05) than for control households. Key determinants of treatment household avoidable food waste reduction included personal attitudes, perceived behavioral control, the number of people in a household, and the amount of garbage set out.


Citation: Paul van der Werf, Jamie Seabrook, and Jason Gilliland. “Reduce Food Waste. Save Money”: Testing a Novel Intervention to Reduce Household Food Waste. Environment and Behavior. 53(2), 151-183 (2021);

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