Food communications research

WRAP carried out research in 2012/13 to test communications aimed at:

  • building awareness of the negative aspects of food waste; and,
  • influencing behaviours to prevent food waste and increase the use of local authority food collection services.

This section of the Household Waste Prevention Hub provides a summary overview of the research report’s recommendations.

Key points

  • WRAP research in 2013 involved both qualitative and quantitative testing of communication messages among 1,200 members of the public.
  • It cannot be assumed that local authority food waste collection service is in itself sufficient to change behaviours around food waste.
  • Love Food Hate Waste and the Food Cycle diagram are key reference materials.
  • Timing is important when planning the release of communication materials to residents.

Background to the research

WRAP previously investigated the hypothesis that the introduction of local authority food waste collections encouraged householders to waste less food for the reason that food waste is much more visible in a separate food waste bin. The research found no strong evidence of this behaviour overall across the survey sample.

Because the research found that food waste collection schemes alone are insufficient to encourage changes in behaviour, WRAP set up a research project to develop and test what types of communications and messages are most effective. The project was carried out in 2012/13.

Main recommendations

There are a number of recommendations coming out of this research: 

1. If you do not offer a collection service

  • Use Love Food Hate Waste (LFHW) to offer your residents food waste prevention tips and support. 

2. If you have a food waste collection service already established:

  • Help residents to recognise the amount of food they waste, help them act to reduce it and provide information about home composting (if that is a priority for the Local Authority).
  • A combined food waste recycling and reduction guide will introduce the food hierarchy in a simple and understandable way. Use the Food Cycle visual tool (below) and the resources at www.lovefoodhatewaste.com and www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/partners to help develop your guide.


3. If you are about to roll out a food waste collection service:

  • Two to six months before starting the new service, raise awareness of the issue of food waste – help your residents to recognise the amount of food they waste. Highlight the food waste hierarchy and offer simple tips and solutions to reduce waste. Use the Food Cycle and LFHW to do this. Highlight the new collection service is coming soon for the food that can’t be eaten.
  • Just before and during rollout, make the how, why and when of the new collection service the sole focus of your communications to ensure residents are fully aware of how to participate. It is recommended that you do not combine prevention and service messages in your teaser and instructional leaflets during rollout to ensure clarity of message.
  • At least 8 weeks after roll-out thank residents for continuing to participate in the service and highlight progress. Re-highlight the food waste hierarchy, focus on ‘recycling food waste is good, preventing food waste is even better’ and offer simple tips and solutions to reduce food waste. Again, use the Food Cycle and Love Food Hate Waste to do this.

The full research document describes the research methodology in greater detail and provides more in-depth recommendations. Other supporting materials from WRAP are available on the same web page.