The United Kingdom has set up a national research project to study the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns on food waste and develop methods for helping consumers better manage that food waste. Researchers from the University of Leeds have teamed up with two environmental organizations — Zero Waste Scotland and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) — for the 18-month-long research project.
According to a press release, researchers will examine consumer behavior around food waste both during and after lockdown periods in the UK, and use those findings to develop new ways to help consumers fight food waste and change their behaviors in the home. The project has received £328,000 (~$448,000 USD) in funding, a sum that includes a £268,000 (~$366,000 USD) from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The project is “part of the UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.”
Part of the project’s inspiration comes from earlier research by WRAP showing that self-reported levels of food waste in the UK fell by 34 percent during the country’s first Covid-19 lockdown. “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,” Dr Gulbanu Kaptan, one of the individuals leading the new research project, said in a statement.
As is the case in the U.S., the bulk of food waste in Britain happens inside consumers’ own homes. Curbing it will come from a range of different approaches and solutions. Right now, some approaches include smarter storage systems a la Mimica, meal-planning tools like Kitche and Meal Hero, and fridge appliances that can track food inventory more precisely.
All of these methods have varying success rates. University of Leeds’ new project appears to be focused more on the consumer behavior aspect of food waste than on individual tech tools, however.
For the new project, around 1,500 people across the UK will take part in a survey by relating details of how they choose, store, manage, and cook food. Roughly 30 people will take part in more detailed interviews and will also keep “diaries” of their household food waste.