Thursday, February 4th, 2021
University of Adelaide researchers are about to dive deep into green, red and yellow household bins in the City of Burnside to understand food waste behaviour through micro-auditing the contents and tracking seasonal variations.  

The researchers will also collect information from Adelaide householders both through face-to-face interviews and 2000 online surveys. The goal is to gain a handle on the ‘what, where and why’ of household food waste behaviour for Adelaide.  

Australian households spend up to $3800 a year to buy food that is not eaten – at an annual cost of $10 billion nationally. 

Where food waste diversion systems are provided by councils, householders are requested to place all food waste in the green bin, not in the landfill bin. 

Audits have found that around 87 percent of food waste in Adelaide councils serviced by waste collection company East Waste goes into the landfill bin instead of the composting (green) bin – at unnecessary cost to household budgets, council rates and the environment. 

The WWW (What, Where and Why) of Household Food Waste Behaviour research study is a collaboration between the University of Adelaide, the national Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), the State Government’s Green Industries SA (through the Council Modernisation Program) and East Waste. 

Professor Sarah Wheeler, from the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Global Food and Resources, says that food waste is a major challenge for Australians, listed in a recent global report as the world’s fourth biggest food wasters. 

“We all need to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfill and its significant impacts on our environment, economy and society,” says Professor Wheeler. 

“Historically, past education programs have had limited effectiveness in changing behaviours but what we do know is that every household in the country will save money if it wastes less food and disposes of it properly. 

“If we are to change our behaviours, we need to know why we as a community behave the way that we do and what it will take to change it. This study is designed to answer those questions.” 

Researchers will audit the contents of 200 sets of green, red and yellow bins randomly selected from households. This will be backed by research interviews and online surveys with householders and the wider community. Bins from selected households will be weighed upon collection to track seasonal variations during a year. 

The University will write to households in various selected suburbs in the City of Burnside to inform them about the study and give them the opportunity to opt out. Bin contents will not be publicly identified to an individual household. The researchers are the only ones who will see the results of individual audits and all results will remain confidential.  

Fight Food Waste CRC Chief Executive Officer Dr Steven Lapidge says: “Every year 2.3 million tonnes of food  waste from Australian households are sent to landfill to rot and generate greenhouse gas instead of being used for composting to improve our soils. 

“If diverted from landfill to compost, this household food waste would save millions of dollars each year, create jobs, improve soil and reduce by around 4 million tonnes the annual amount of greenhouse gas generated in Australia.” 

The research results will be used to develop more impactful programs to change behaviour in households. The researchers say success will bring Australia closer to a circular economy that eliminates waste and saves money for both households and councils. ##

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University of Adelaide researchers are about to dive deep into green, red and yellow household bins in the City of Burnside to understand food waste behaviour through micro-auditing the contents and tracking seasonal variations.

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