Food Waste Pilot Project update

In the summer of 2013, the City and researchers from the University of Guelph, partnered and conducted a joint research project—called the Food Waste Pilot Project—to study food waste behaviour.

What was involved?

The research team weighed bags of organic waste, recyclables and garbage set at the curb for collection from approximately 270 randomly selected Guelph households and administered a short survey with about 60 of those households to determine opinions, attitudes and values around food waste in the home.

Why is this important?

Food waste is a relatively new area of interest with broad reaching implications in a variety of fields that is gaining a great deal of attention globally, nationally and locally. Here’s why:

  • It’s estimated nearly 40 per cent of all food produced in Canada is wasted.
  • Studies in the UK concluded the vast majority of consumer food waste could be avoided, and that while approximately one-fifth of food thrown away includes items such as peelings, cores and bones, the rest was once perfectly edible.
  • On average, Canadian households waste $28 of edible food each week.
  • Food waste represents approximately twenty percent of Guelph’s waste stream.

Source: Cut Waste, Grow Profit: Reducing Food Waste by Addressing the Disconnect between the Attitude and Behaviour of Producers and Managers of Businesses Situated along the Value Chain

The findings from this research will enable the University to apply for additional funding to complete a more comprehensive research project and will be used by the City to inform future diversion programs and strategies for long-term sustainability and cost savings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Food Waste Pilot Project?

The Food Waste Pilot is a joint project between the City of Guelph and University of Guelph to assess the average waste produced per household per week during two collection periods. The research team weighed bags of organic waste, recyclables and garbage set at the curb for collection from approximately 270 randomly selected households. Then they reached out to approximately 60 households to participate in a survey to determine opinions, attitudes and comments about food habits in the home.

Why conduct this Pilot Project?

Food waste is a relatively new area of interest with broad reaching implications in a variety of fields (food production, packaging, waste diversion, etc.) that is gaining a great deal of attention globally, nationally and locally. Here’s why:

  • It’s estimated nearly 40 per cent of all food produced in Canada is wasted.
  • Studies in the UK concluded the vast majority of consumer food waste could be avoided, and that while approximately one-fifth of food thrown away includes items such as peelings, cores and bones, the rest was once perfectly edible.
  • On average, Canadian households waste $28 of edible food each week.
  • Food waste represents approximately twenty percent of Guelph’s waste stream.

The findings from this research will enable the University to apply for additional funding to complete a more comprehensive research project and will be used by the City to inform future diversion programs and strategies for long-term sustainability and cost savings.

What were some of the key insights from the Pilot Project?

  • The organic waste generated per household per capita varied widely indicating there is value in understanding the source of that variability in order to effectively target strategies to reduce it.
  • Most respondents used several approaches to decide when to throw food out.  The most common criterion is the appearance, followed by smell and best before date.  Households that used the most criteria created the most waste.
  • The results showed that people who paid more attention to food, such as growing a vegetable garden, preserving or canning food, or had someone in the household who was on a special diet, were less likely to waste it.
  • There was no definite indication that households that invested time in planning food purchases reduced less waste.  Findings indicated there is clearly a need to improve our understanding of the complex variables for waste generation so that we can undertake initiatives to reduce waste.
  • The majority of respondents considered food waste a social issue, more than an economic or environmental issue.
  • Majority of respondents stated that individuals are responsible for reducing food waste, while stores and food manufacturers were the most common second choice.
  • The findings highlighted that respondents do not have a good understanding of what they do to cause waste and the things they might do to reduce it. Almost 40% of the respondents couldn’t think of anything they could do to reduce food waste while a third said improved meal planning would reduce waste.

 For more information

More information about the Food Waste Pilot Project and research update report

Solid Waste Resources
519-767-0598
waste@guelph.ca