Today, 29th September, is International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, and the ZERO WASTE project has released its first findings.

These initial results comprise and present information gathered from a questionnaire distributed to individuals aged between 18 and 60 years old in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Romania. The questionnaire asked respondents about their shopping and habits and investigated perceived causes of food waste.

The results reveal that in the majority of the participants’ houses, relevant factors that contribute to food waste include purchasing more than necessary (16%), leftovers (18%), and “use-by” dates (19%). In relation to the latter, 24% of the respondents consider “use-by” to be synonymous with “best before” dates.

The questionnaire also explored the respondents’ views on food waste prevention. 22% of those surveyed believe that social initiatives are the most effective measures for raising societal awareness and reducing wastage. When asked how COVID-19 restrictions had affected their shopping habits, 52% of the respondents stated that it had changed the ways in which they manage food at home; for instance, they now tend to plan more efficiently and avoid extra shopping trips by compiling weekly menus, stocking more provisions, managing portions and rations, and ensuring that they had efficient refrigeration and storage.

Finally, respondents were asked to express their main concerns about food waste at home, and their main considerations when buying food. The data emerging from the first question revealed that 45% of the respondents are concerned about ethical aspects, while the remainder are concerned about environmental factors (28%) and economic factors (27%). Regarding the latter question, 23% of the respondents stated that that food prices are a major influential factor, while a minority said that buying local produce and having value for money are important. This last issue is a significant one, as it demonstrated that most consumers base their dietary choices on economic factors as opposed to making optimal decisions based on other considerations, such as health.

These outcomes support the view that such outreach activities are essential in raising consumer awareness and encouraging people to adopt best practices in food shopping and dietary habits.

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