Organisation - November 22, 2018

Discarded food in canteens to be weighed

Roelof Kleis

This week and next, students will be standing next to the waste bins in the WUR canteens to help people sort their waste properly. They are helping with a study on food waste.

People who eat in a campus canteen this week are being asked to put their edible and non-edible organic waste in different bins. Photo Lieke de Kwant

For this study, the different waste flows from the canteens are going to be weighed for two weeks. This is WUR’s contribution to the nationwide Food Waste Monitor, explains Han Soethoudt of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research (WFBR). WFBR has been conducting this monitor since 2009. ‘Up to now it mainly looked at the other side of the process, at what came into the waste processing plant. With this analysis we shift the focus to the places where the waste comes from.’

When documenting the waste flows from the four caterers on campus, the study differentiates between kitchen waste, leftover food from displays or dinners, and waste thrown out by customers. When the waste is weighed, a further distinction is made between avoidable and unavoidable waste. The difference lies in its edibility. Southoudt: ‘Banana skins are not edible, for instance, so they count as unavoidable waste. That waste doesn’t contribute to food waste.’

Handouts placed near the tray collection points will help students and staff to make this distinction. During peak hours, students will also keep a close eye on things to make sure it is done properly. Which is necessary: without supervision, waste regularly ends up in the wrong bin, as lunchtime observation in Orion revealed.

The results of the analysis at WUR, along with figures from other participants in the Food Waste Monitor, will provide a detailed picture of how food waste comes about, says Soethoudt. Then the government can introduce well-aimed measures to reduce food waste.