A Simple Awareness Campaign to Promote Food Waste Reduction in a University Canteen

Waste Manag. 2018 Jun;76:28-38. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2018.02.044. Epub 2018 Mar 2.


Food waste has important environmental, social and economic impacts and increasing attention has been given lately to the unparalleled scale of food waste in the food supply chain worldwide. An initiative aiming to reduce food waste was tested at the School of Agriculture canteen (University of Lisbon, Portugal). The "Clean dish, clean conscience!" initiative consisted of a simple and inexpensive education campaign to raise awareness of reducing plate waste, by establishing the connection between food waste and personal behaviour. As a first stage plate waste from canteen users was measured over a 10 day period. After this period, a waste consumption index and per capita waste consumption were calculated to evaluate the level of satisfaction of the consumer and the related concern about food wastage, and was classified as Bad. After this first stage it was concluded that the users did not have strong convictions about avoiding food waste. During the second stage of the project an education campaign was implemented with plate waste being monitored for a further 16 days to assess the effectiveness of the campaign. The approach consisted of displaying simple and affordable informative posters in strategic areas of the canteen with simple messages reminding not to accept food they knew they would not eat. This led to a mean reduction in the waste consumption index of ∼15%. A parallel action encouraging separation of organic and inorganic waste was implemented as well, with an active participation of >70% of the users. The initiative achieved its objective of reducing plate waste by raising awareness of the daily food waste problem at the institution's canteen and by suggesting "how-to" actions for reducing such waste. This study showed how avoidable waste can be reduced simply by making students aware of the topic of food waste. Simple strategies may be useful to improve behaviours and increase sustainability of the canteens at Universities although this proved to be only efficient with the collaboration of the canteen staff that needs solid education. From the results, a set of measures was presented to the University Social Services for adoption to ensure a permanent reduction of food waste and recyclables in the University canteens.

Keywords: Avoidable food waste reduction; Consumer behaviour; Simple environmental education campaign; University canteen.

MeSH terms

  • Food
  • Food Services*
  • Portugal
  • Schools
  • Universities
  • Waste Management*