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JRC co-presents the initial results of a new online survey on food waste

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It has been estimated that about 180 kg of food per capita per year in Europe is wasted, excluding agricultural food waste and fish discards. A new survey looked not only at the amounts of food wasted but also at people's attitudes, behaviour and the individual reasons behind food wastage at household level: the information can now be used to propose effective means to reduce it

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"Waste" is the keyword of a new online survey on food waste. Co-developed and launched last November by researchers from the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) and experts from the University of Bologna and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the survey was tailored to specific groups in Italy and Germany. The researchers' aim was to collect data on food waste but also to increase awareness on the importance of its prevention: improving the sustainability of the food chain is essential to tackle resource scarcity and global food security.

The first results of the Italian arm of the survey have been delivered this morning in Milan, in a press conference organised at the premises of the Representation of the European Commission. Researchers and press staff from the JRC and the co-organising Universities presented the results and answered questions from the journalists. The initiative was much appreciated and several articles were published in the Italian press.

The survey consisted of 44 on-line questions; in Italy more than 3,000 respondents completed the questionnaire.

The following initial results were presented:

  • 60% of interviewees in Italy declare to throw away food at least once a week. 48% throw it directly into the bin, without re-using it for compost or animal food; only 20% declare they re-use it; 4% give it away for free;

  • 52% declare they throw away less than they did two years ago; 28% didn't change their habits;
  • importantly, the main reasons for this waste of food are related to food conservation, either because of lack of knowledge on how to preserve food or to a discrepancy between the amount of food bought and the amount required at the household level.

In Italy, the survey was framed under the initiative of the European Programme "A year against waste" and promoted by Professor Andrea Segré, Director of the Department of Agriculture and Food Science, Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna and President of 'Last Minute Market' (an academic spin off of the University of Bologna). The survey was promoted by the radio broadcasts 'Caterpillar' and 'Decanter' on the channel Radio2 Rai.

logoannocontrolosprecoThe presentation of the results coincided with the launch of "Waste Watchers", the first Italian National Observatory on Waste by the University of Bologna (Department of Agro-Food Sciences & Technologies and Department of Statistics). Professor Andrea Segré explained that this will be "a scientific tool and at the same time, a channel for information, communication and awareness-raising activities on domestic food waste; in parallel, policies will be promoted, targeted at preventing and reducing food/water waste".

Further to the European campaign "A year against waste", another initiative has been launched in 2012, entitled "Carta Spreco Zero" ("zero waste charter"): initially promoted by 100 majors in Northern-Eastern Italy and Euroregione, now also supported by 64 municipalities in Italy. These local authorities will activate a decalogue of best practices against waste, conforming to the guidelines of the European Parliament resolution of 19 January 2012 on how to avoid food wastage: strategies for a more efficient food chain in the EU.

Images: a) food waste; b) logo of the campaign 'Un anno contro lo spreco" (cartoon by Altan).

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