New HEAL study: The quantity and composition of household food waste during the COVID-19 pandemic: A direct measurement study in Canada
A team of researchers led by Haley Everitt with Paul van der Werf, Jamie Seabrook, Alexander Wray, and Jason Gillilandpublished a study entitled: “The quantity and composition of household food waste during the COVID-19 pandemic: A direct measurement study in Canada”.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have amplified the environmental, social, and economic implications of household food waste. A better understanding of household food wasting during the pandemic is needed to improve the management of waste and develop best practices for municipal waste management programs under crisis circumstances.
The aim of this study is to determine the state of household food waste during the unprecedented circumstances brought upon by a global pandemic. To investigate these circumstances, a municipal food waste composition study was conducted with 100-single family households in the city of London, Ontario, Canada in June 2020. The average total amount of food waste sent to landfill was 2.81 kg (SD = 2.56 kg) per household per week, which represents approximately 28% of the total amount of overall garbage sent to landfill. Approximately 52% (1.45 kg) of the total amount of food waste sent to landfill by each sample household was classified as avoidable, while the remaining 48% (1.36 kg) was classified as unavoidable. The composition of avoidable food waste was primarily fruit and vegetables (34%), followed by other foods (20%), and then bread and bakery (18%). The composition of unavoidable food waste was also primarily fruit and vegetables (71%).
The quantity and composition of household food waste was strongly influenced by household demographic characteristics, including the number of people in a household and the number of children in a household, and somewhat influenced by socioeconomic factors, namely housing tenure. Neighbourhood food environment characteristics were also correlated with the quantity and composition of household food waste. Most notably, the proximity to, and density of grocery stores, take-out only vendors, and restaurants influenced the quantity of unavoidable food waste.
As one of the only (if not the only) direct measurement studies of household food waste generation during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study fills a gap in our current knowledge and contributes to the growing body of literature published during the pandemic as food waste scholars continue to better understand the short- and long-term implications COVID-19 has had on household food waste generation around the world.
Citation: Everitt, H., van der Werf, P., Seabrook J. A., Wray, A., & Gilliland, J. A. (2021). The quantity and composition of household food waste during the COVID-19 pandemic: A direct measurement study in Canada. Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, 101110. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.seps.2021.101110