Economics of Food Waste

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 10:15 AM – 12:15 PM

Swissotel Chicago, Montreux 1
Hosted By: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
  • Chair: Metin Cakir, University of Minnesota

On the Measurement of Food Waste

Marc F. Bellemare
,
University of Minnesota
Metin Cakir
,
University of Minnesota
Hikaru Hanawa Peterson
,
University of Minnesota
Lindsey K. Novak
,
University of Minnesota
Jeta Rudi
,
University of Minnesota

Abstract

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a quarter to a third of all the food produced worldwide is wasted. We develop a simple framework to systematically think about food waste based on the life cycle of a typical food item. On the basis of our framework, we identify problems with extant measures of food waste and propose a more consistent and practical approach. In doing so, we first show that the widely cited, extant measures of the quantity and value of food waste are inconsistent with one another and overstate the problem of food waste. By misdirecting and misallocating some of the resources that are currently put into food-waste reduction efforts, this overstatement of the problem could have severe consequences for public policy. Our framework also allows documenting the points of intervention for policies aimed at reducing the extent of food waste in the life cycle of food and to identify interdependencies between potential policy levers.

Evaluation of a Food Waste Reduction Campaign in a University Dining Hall

Brenna Ellison
,
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign
Erica Nehrling Meador
,
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign
Brittany Duff
,
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Abstract

The foodservice industry generates food waste in the kitchen as well as anything leftover on consumers’ plates. While software programs have been developed to optimize inventory management and meal planning (and thus, reduce food waste) in the kitchen, fewer efforts have targeted plate waste. In all-you-can-eat dining settings, such as university dining halls or other buffet-style restaurants, concerns over food waste are even higher as there are no monetary incentives to take less food. In addition, university dining facilities primarily serve young consumers (ages 18-24) who tend to be more wasteful than the average adult, further increasing the likelihood of plate waste in these settings. Appeals to money-saving have been identified as the best motivator to reduce consumer food waste generally; however, alternative motivators will likely be needed when the quantity of food and its associated cost are not directly linked. Thus, the purpose of this study is to determine the efficacy of a student-centered food waste reduction campaign in a university dining hall setting. The campaign will focus on alternative (non-price) messages to encourage less wasteful behaviors. Consumer plate waste will be collected, sorted, and weighed in a treatment and a control dining hall over the course of a year to assess the impact of the campaign on both the quantity and quality of food waste and to determine whether the impact persists over time.

Foodservice Composting Crowds Out Consumer Food Waste Reduction Behavior in a Dining Experiment

Danyi Qi
,
Ohio State University
Brian Roe
,
Ohio State University

Abstract

Pressure mounts to address food waste, which deprives hungry people of needed nutrition, depletes resources used to produce food, and accounts for substantial greenhouse gas emissions during production, distribution and disposal. Composting, and other food waste recycling technologies that divert food waste from landfills, mitigate the environmental damages of food waste disposal and grow in popularity. We explore whether consumer knowledge that the environmental damage created by their food waste will be mitigated undermines personal food waste reduction behavior. Subjects in a dining situation are randomly assigned whether or not they receive information about the negative effects of landfilling food waste and whether they are told that uneaten food from the study will be composted or landfilled. We find that providing information about the negative effects of food waste in landfills significantly reduces both the propensity to create any food waste and the total amount of solid food waste created when compared to control subjects. However, if subjects are also informed that food waste from the study will be composted, the propensity to create food waste and the amount of solid food waste generated is similar to control situation which features neither a reduction nor a recycling policy. This suggests a crowding out effect or informational rebound effect in which promoting policies that mitigate the environmental damages of food waste may unintentionally undermine policies meant to encourage individual consumer food waste reduction. We discuss key policy implications as well as several limitations of our experimental setting and analysis.
Discussant(s)
Jean Buzby
,
USDA Economic Research Service
JEL Classifications
  • Q0 - General