This year #FoodWasteActionWeek (or #FWAW) is occurring from the 6th to the 12th March 2023. The point of #FoodWasteActionWeek is to encourage people to reduce their food waste. This year the theme is “Win. Don’t bin” which will inspire people to use up all of their leftovers and make small, sustainable changes to save both money and the planet. It’s also a great opportunity to celebrate institutions and teams who are dedicated to making reductions throughout the year. We want to take this opportunity to celebrate the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), who have researched innovative methods to reduce food waste using behavioural science. We also want to take a closer look at LSE student residence Bankside House who have successfully used these methods to tackle their own food waste.
WRAP set up Food Waste Action Week to encourage consumers to lower their food waste. The organisation raises awareness of climate change and helps the food, plastic and textiles industries to mitigate their environmental impact through various initiatives. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign is one such initiative that aims to tackle food waste through providing information on how to reduce food waste in the home. Food Waste Action Week was developed in 2021 as part of this campaign and has since grown to be supported by major corporations such as Panasonic, Ocado and Tesco. The campaign has been extremely successful and its messaging has reached 1 in 3 adults across the UK. Even more impressively, nearly half of those who see the messaging are stimulated to change their behaviour and send less food to landfill.
Fighting food waste is crucial, because it is a major contributor to climate change. In 2018 in the UK, households generated 6.6 million tonnes of food waste. Sending food to landfill not only means wasting all the money spent on food; it also means wasting all of the water, nutrients and energy that went into growing, packaging and transporting that food. Also, when the food breaks down in landfill it releases methane, a greenhouse gas which further contributes to climate change. Approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to food waste. Eliminating all of this waste would be a great way to lower our carbon emissions and the hospitality sector has an important role to play.
The London School of Economics is making commendable efforts to hit their goal of being net-zero by 2050. To show that they really are invested in a sustainable future, LSE has spent £4.8 million over the past 5 years on projects to increase energy efficiency throughout the London campus. They have also investigated their supply chains and developed a Sustainability Impact Assessment tool to help mitigate the environmental impact.
Separately from reaching their ESG targets, the University has been a major driver in tackling global food waste. Back in 2020, the LSE Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science collaborated with Winnow to develop a method using AI and behavioural science to reduce the amount of food left over on customer’s plates. Seeing as plate waste is responsible for 30% of all food waste from commercial kitchens, this was a study that could have huge global implications.
The study launched Winnow’s post-consumer solution Winnow Sense. This captures an image and the weight of the food wasted from individual plates, allowing comparison of grams of waste per person for each meal over time. The study paired the data with posters of anthropomorphised food items with environmental call to actions placed around the canteen. A trend of increasing food waste was represented by a poster with food items looking sad. Decreasing food waste meant the food was shown to be happy and smiling.
Overall, providing feedback on plate waste with anthropomorphic cues was shown to reduce waste and also have some positive effects on customers’ behaviour at home. Customers were more likely to cherish their food, and therefore less likely to waste it. This method has been implemented across the globe and the results have been almost immediate. One employee canteen had reduced their plate waste by 35% just 5 months after implementation. This is an extremely impressive result and shows how LSE have massively contributed to reducing food waste on a global scale.
Closer to home, the team at LSE’s Bankside House student residence really cares about reducing their food waste. The in-house catering and management team includes Ana, Residence Catering Manager; Hastings, Assistant Catering Manager and Kabba the Chef Manager. They know the importance of reducing food waste for both environmental reasons and to reduce their kitchen costs.
Manually reporting their waste had led to inconsistencies in the data, so they introduced Winnow as a tech solution. For Ana in particular, it is really important for the resident students to be educated on their food waste and how they can have a positive impact on the environment. With plate waste being their main focus, they implemented the behavioural science method using Winnow Sense in October of 2022.
In just 5 months, the team has managed to cut plate waste by 22%. The enthusiasm is clear to see, as print-outs of Winnow’s reports and table talkers with the anthropomorphised food items are visible throughout the restaurant. This has encouraged the students to think more about the quantity of food they are wasting and how to mitigate this themselves. The reductions are also due to the catering team taking action. Hastings noticed that when students were allowed one portion, for example, one serving of chicken or fish, they would eat all of it. However, foods with uncontrolled portions sizes such as vegetables, salad or rice, would often end up in the bin because the students couldn’t finish it all. A successful and simple solution was to control the portion size and encourage students to come back for more if they wanted it.
“Winnow allows us to quantify our food waste, helping us decide on menu options and portion sizes. We can also feed the data back to the students so they can see their own impact and make changes.”
Ana Martínez Badía, Residences Catering Manager
While much of their efforts are on post-consumer plate waste, they also have successful initiatives to reduce pre-consumer waste. Using the data provided by Winnow, the team could see exactly what was being wasted and at what time. They found that they often had self-service items such as salad left over. They wouldn’t want to reduce the quantity of salad made too much because students might go hungry! Repurposing these leftovers into soups or stews for the students has proved very successful in both reducing waste and making the food reach further.
“With the help of Winnow, we can do our part for sustainability and only use what we need, so we can reduce our food waste and lower our carbon footprint.”
-Hastings Maluza, Assistant Catering Manager
The huge efforts of the LSE catering team are clearly seen in the results over the past 5 months. Overall, they have prevented around 900 kg of food from going to landfill. This is enough to feed two people for 3 meals per day for an entire year. Ana, Hastings and the rest of the Bankside House team have shown that success is about the smaller, daily changes of individuals that can have a huge positive impact. Food Waste Action Week is about raising awareness to fight food waste, Bankside House provides a great example of this in action.