Why competition can help in the battle to reduce food waste
Every year shoppers spend €2.5 billion in the Netherlands on food that goes to waste

Why competition can help in the battle to reduce food waste

Samantha Lster
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Joost Snels-liggend printversie (1)
Joost Snels

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Raising awareness of the cost, both economic and environmental, of food waste is an important mission. A national initiative to bring an element of fun to the message is proving popular in the Netherlands

Households in the Netherlands, like many in neighbouring Western European countries, are throwing away billions of euros worth of food each year through poor planning and storage.

According to Joost Snels, senior scientist in supply chain management at Wageningen University & Research, Dutch consumers are spending approximately €2.5 billion annually on food that ends up in the bin.

Snels is part of a team at Wageningen University & Research involved with a national initiative to raise awareness of food waste among consumers. The project is called FoodBattle, and it pits households against one another to battle food waste over three weeks.

The households, which could also be work colleagues, members of a local community, friends or family, sign up to the challenge and keep a daily diary of how much food is thrown away, and the reasons for its disposal. Information and tips on how to cook with leftovers, guides to expiration dates, and food safety is sent to the consumers to help them manage their waste.

The aim is that by the end of the three-weeks consumers will have significantly changed their wasteful habits. The diaries also give much needed insight into household attitudes towards food, and provide research upon which to devise new strategies to help stem the flow of food into the bin.

Snels will be discussing the FoodBattle project, as well as other ways to tackle food waste that the team are working on, at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference. He says that from the FoodBattle information his department found that being an organised shopper was a key influencer on waste reduction.

“We learned that better planning when shopping for the ingredients and components for the meals in the coming days can help reduce waste,” he explains.

“[Also] better customisation of the meals, such as volume and ingredients, and cooking with leftovers.

“Better understanding the meaning of the best-before-date and the use-by-date, and being more relaxed and less strict. What we learned is that foremost self-consciousness of one’s own behaviour, the social context, and the social norms and influence are important factors when you want to encourage consumers to waste less food.”

The first FoodBattle was launched in 2012. In 2015 Wageningen University & Research, joined in the project alongside the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, and several other organisations. 

The latest FoodBattle will take place this November in the city of Ede. For Ede the FoodBattle is one of a range of projects in the city’s agenda to reduce food waste by 20% by the year 2020.

It is just one of several projects that the Dutch government is supporting in an attempt to educate consumers on how they might not only reduce wastage, but also household costs. 

Turning the message into a fun game is helping to make the topic part of dinner table conversations that will hopefully lead to another meal being made from the leftover supper.

Joost Snels’s seminar Reducing Food Waste is No Pipe Dream takes place at 3.25pm in the Transformatorhuis on November 3 at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference in the Westergasfabriek. Don’t miss out! Register online now.  

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