Knowledge for better food systems

Measuring food waste in Dutch households

Image: Marco Verch, Flat lay above Pastry with Walnuts cream, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

According to this paper, households in the Netherlands wasted 41kg of solid food per person in 2016 - a 15% decline since 2010. Furthermore, 57 litres per person of potable liquids such as coffee, tea and milk are disposed of via the sink or toilet each year. Rice, bread, pasta, vegetables and pastries are among the food types most likely to be wasted (as a percentage of purchased quantity).

The paper synthesised three separate studies that were carried out during the same time period: a study of food waste based on a consumer survey, a study of food waste based on analysis of household waste, and an estimation of wasted potable liquids based on a survey through a mobile phone app.

The paper found that people with a higher-than-average income wasted twice as much food as people with a below-average income. Meanwhile, people who plan their meals in advance or use a shopping list tend to waste less food. Households with children are more likely to waste food than those without.

The decrease in food waste seen between 2010 and 2016 may be linked to households buying less food, which the researchers say could be due to several reasons including a greater number of smaller households, increased purchase of home-delivered meals, more eating outside the home and more health-conscious food consumption.

The waste figures from the study based on analysis of actual household waste were around three times higher than the results based on a consumer survey, suggesting that people underestimate the amount of food they waste.

 

Abstract

The aim of this study was to measure the food waste that occurs in Dutch households through a new, combined approach. The methods used were a sorting analysis of solid household waste from 130 households in 13 municipalities and a consumer survey given to 763 respondents. An estimation survey on liquid waste was given to 1105 respondents via a phone app. According to the consumer survey, consumers throw away 21.2 kg of food (solid and liquid) per person, per year. This appears to be an underestimation. The main part, 60.2%, is discarded via household waste, 29.6% goes down the sink or toilet and 10.2% is thrown away via other pathways. The sorting analysis shows that solid food waste (including sauces, fats and dairy products) via household waste amounts to 30.4 kilo per person, per year. Based on the distribution across the various pathways, it is calculated that 10.8 kg of solid food is wasted via other pathways. Together, this was 41.2 kg per person in 2016 (less than the 48 kg in 2010 and 47 kg in 2013). This decrease is not significant. Solid food waste accounts for 13.0% of all food purchased. The most wasted solid foods are bread (22%), dairy products (17%), vegetables (14%), fruit (12%) and meat (7%) ( See Table 1). A new method is used to estimate liquid waste via sinks and toilets; this waste amounts to 57.3 L per person, per year: 50.7 L of beverages (including milk) and 6.6 L of thick liquids. The waste volumes for coffee and tea (30.7 L) and milk (10 L) are large.

 

Reference

van Dooren, C., Janmaat, O., Snoek, J. and Schrijnen, M., 2019. Measuring food waste in Dutch households: A synthesis of three studies. Waste Management, 94, pp.153-164.

Read the full paper here. See also the Foodsource building block What is food loss and food waste? 

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