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Opinions and behaviours contributing to household level food waste in Langley

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Across Canada, $31 billion is spent each year on food that is never eaten, with just under half of this waste occurring at the household level (Gooch et. al, 2014). There are numerous environmental, social and economic implications of food waste, and a growing list of municipalities across Canada have implemented organics collection programs in an attempt to keep organic waste out of landfills. As an end-of-pipe solution, organics collection does little to address the upstream costs of food waste, nor does it facilitate the reduction of food waste in the first place. This study aims to explore the behaviours and opinions that contribute to household-level food waste in Canada in order to develop better educational programming and policies to curb food waste. This research was conducted in Langley, BC, a suburban municipality of approximately 110,000. The study consisted of an analysis of 141 surveys investigating food wasting opinions and behaviours, along with a more intensive week-long study involving 13 participating households. Participants in the week-long study kept a diary of their food waste instances and collected their food waste for analysis. Key findings include the need for standardized methodologies in food waste research, as well as the importance of distinguishing between avoidable and unavoidable food waste to better understand how much edible food waste is being thrown away. In Langley, households with children waste the most food; elderly individuals with no children in the house waste the least. Food wasted as a result of cooking, preparing or serving too much was the most common reason for wasting food. The financial loss inherent in wasting food was the number one driver for why individuals feel ‘bothered’ when they waste food. A noticeable lack of awareness about one’s household food waste was also discovered; individuals waste much more than they believe they do, signifying a need for more education and awareness of food wasting behaviours in the home.
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