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New study examines social media’s role in reducing food waste

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Social media campaigns can play a role in people’s food waste behaviours but work best when combined with other intervention tools, according to a new Fight Food Waste CRC report. 

Led by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), with government partner the NSW Environment Protection Authority, the “Social Media: The Real Impact on Food Waste Reduction Beyond the Swipe or the Click” report found emotional messaging is the best way to attract attention that can lead to long-term impact. 

According to Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL)’s National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study, Australians waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food annually – equivalent to filling the MCG 10 times over. This equates to a figure of $36.6 billion, or $2500 per household, each year. 

Fight Food Waste CRC chief executive officer, Dr Steven Lapidge, said the new report underlines the importance of using all available means to best reach Australians to impact their food waste behaviour. 

“We know through such previous CRC research as the ‘Fight Food Waste: It’s Easy As’ campaign that social media definitely has a role to play in reaching people in their homes, where the majority of food loss and waste occurs in Australia,” Lapidge said. 

“What this latest research from QUT underlines is that while there is still more we need to understand about exactly how social media influences decision-making around food waste, it’s not the only tool that we should use.” 

The report also found an approach to bring stakeholders together across the value chain would help drive behaviour changes. Fight Food Waste is leading the way on this, Lapidge said. 

“Our entire operating model is based on partnerships and working together with industry, government and researchers to help achieve Australia’s goal of halving food waste by 2030,” he said. 

“With the cost of living rising across Australia, saving money on food is becoming even more important. At Fight Food Waste Limited, we are working very hard to bring about a nationwide consumer behaviour change campaign which we hope will elevate the issue of food waste across Australia and lead to a meaningful and sustainable reduction of food waste.”

While social media campaigns can attract a lot of traffic and attention, the greatest challenge lies in how to evaluate their true influence – which is the case across all public education/intervention scenarios, including food safety, public health, road safety and other campaigns. 

“We have found that social media as part of an intervention mix was effective in raising awareness, developing social norms, enhancing food waste literacy, and increasing ‘perceived’ behaviour control over food waste. The question is in how to maintain user momentum for long-term, sustained behaviour change,” QUT Digital Media Research Centre lead researcher Dr Jenny Hou said. 

“There is no one-size-fits-all model, but many social marketing campaigns also include a wide range of other tools, all of which are useful to prompt behavioural change. These include printed information packs, game apps, websites, email alerts, fridge magnets, recipe cards, grocery shopping notepads, digital kitchen scales, and lidded buckets for waste composting/collection.” 

The full report can be downloaded here.  

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