Over the past year, most Norwegians have reduced the waste of the most expensive food items, but we still discard a significant amount of bread, vegetables, and liquid dairy products. Smaller packaging sizes might offer the solution.
On behalf of Matvett, NORSUS conducts annual consumer surveys about Norwegians' habits, attitudes, and behaviors related to food waste.
This year's survey reveals a significant decrease in waste of relatively expensive food items. However, the most discarded items remain bread, vegetables, liquid dairy products, and beverages, with most of the waste being unused or partially used food. The primary reasons for waste include forgetting about food in the fridge or elsewhere, short shelf life or poor quality upon purchase, and buying too much. Over-purchasing often results from oversized consumer packaging, miscalculating needs, or forgetting what's at home.
Forty-something-year-olds are the worst offenders
It has long been known that younger individuals waste the most, but this trend appears to be shifting: Young people have reduced their self-reported food waste from 2022 to 2023, while older individuals have increased theirs. Now, those aged between 40 and 50 waste the most.
The survey also shows that individuals who regularly harvest, hunt, cultivate, or fish their food report less waste than others, while those who frequently use take-away services report more waste.
The food industry's role and responsibility
Our report and research from the EU's Consumer Food Waste Forum indicates that the food industry and authorities bear a significant responsibility in aiding consumers to reduce waste. Shelf life, quality, packaging sizes, along with measures or nudges to assist consumers in making responsible choices during critical food waste moments, are areas where the food industry and authorities should further focus to help consumers waste less food.
More concretely, this involves:
How to waste less bread?
In the Norwegian Research Council (NFR) financed project "Bread Rescuers," owned by Nofima, our researcher Aina Stensgård will investigate how the food industry can help consumers waste less, with a specific focus on bread. The project will test various consumer interventions and business strategies to reduce bread waste from production to consumption.
A broadly composed group of 25 participants from the food value chain, researchers, government representatives, and voluntary organizations in the NewTools research project had a series of meetings on the 25th and 26th of October with the EU Commission, the Norwegian EU delegation, and the umbrella organizations for European consumer organizations (BEUC) and business organizations (Food and Drink Europe).
The purpose of the meetings was twofold, partly to receive information about important processes and development trends in the EU that could be of interest to the projects, and partly to inform about the NewTools project.
Representatives from the EU Commission participated from the EU's "Ministries" for health (DG Sante), environment (DG ENV), fisheries and aquaculture (DG Mare), and agriculture (DG Agri).
Key topics at the meeting included the EU's commitment to sustainable food (Farm to Fork), the new Green Claims regulations for "green claims" (and for environmental labels, etc.), and developments in organic farming and animal welfare. Of particular interest wss the ongoing work on a framework for a sustainable food system and for sustainability and health labeling directly on packaging (Front of Pack labeling). We also gained valuable insights into how Norway works within the EU system.
Although the NewTools project is intended for food consumed in Norway, initiatives from the EU are very important, both because about 80% of food imports to Norway come from EU countries and because a large part of EU regulations are implemented in Norway. In addition, it is important to learn from experiences in the EU, harmonize methods, and avoid duplication of work.
The meetings were highly productive. They provided a significant learning outcome for the participants and offered important input from the EU to the project's work.
NewTools is a project designed to make it easier for consumers to choose sustainable food. NewTools will develop scoring systems that provide information on nutrition and the climate and environmental footprint of food, ultimately making the food system more sustainable.
Read more about the NewTools project here: https://www.fhi.no/kl/studier/newtools/
LCA is not just a method but a methodology. This means that it is a collection of several methods. The framework of LCA is divided into four steps described in the standard ISO 14044:
The majority of the LCA projects in NORSUS include all four steps of the methodology, but the projects may have different focus:
In most LCA projects, NORSUS is dependent on collaboration. Naturally, we often collaborate with companies that want to assess their products or services. In such projects, it is central to collaborate on the definition of goal and scope and to collect necessary information, such as the amounts of materials, production processes and means of transportation. The interpretation of results is closely linked with the study’s goal study and must be adapted to the company’s needs. When it comes to inventory modelling and conversion to environmental impacts, we often collaborate with other researchers with competence within the specific areas, such as biologists and ecologists. The development of new indicators for environmental impact assessment can potentially be used in all types of projects.
Funding of transdisciplinary research projects is essential for the development of LCA. There is a need for more research on inventory modelling and impact assessment, and the results from one study can serve as valuable input data for projects. Projects can be funded either through public funders (such as the Norwegian Research Council) or by companies or industries taking social responsibility and contributing to method development for the common good of society.
At the moment we have two positions open on Finn.no: Research positions within Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and sustainability assessment and Summerresearcher
Deadline: November 19th 2023
NORSUS is regularly in need of recruits with LCA competence who desire to contribute to the knowledge base for sustainable decision making. Applicants should preferably master a Scandinavian language. Get in touch with managing director Ellen-Marie Forsberg for a chat!
See how we work in the short film below (in Norwegian):
Rammene for å drive forsking i regionane er i ferd med å bli snevra inn i ei tid då det burde vere omvendt. Då leiarane for dei fem samfunnsvitskaplege, regionale institutta kom saman i Sogndal 18.-19. oktober, stod difor forskingspolitikk og institutta si rolle i det grøne skiftet i fokus.
Institutta i regionane har eit felles opphav i åra 1973 til 1988 og vart skipa for at kompetansen skulle nå lengre ut i landet enn til byar, universitet og distriktshøgskular. Gjennom samarbeid med bedrifter i regionalt næringsliv skulle institutta sikre påfyll av ny kunnskap der verdiskapinga fann stad.
Det som for nokre tiår sidan var 13 slike institutt, er i dag ein familie på fem: Møreforsking, Telemarksforsking, Norsus (Norsk institutt for bærekraftsforskning), Nordlandsforsking og Vestlandsforsking. Leiinga ved desse like, men unike institutta samarbeider gjennom foreininga Fokus, mellom anna i form av årlege samlingar der direktørar og mellomleiarar kjem saman for å ta opp felles utfordringar og tema. I tillegg bidreg Forskingsrådet og fleire departement på samlingane.
Viktige midlar truga
Årets samling i Sogndal starta med noko av det mest presserande: at regjeringa i statsbudsjettet for 2024 legg opp til å avvikle ordninga med regionale forskingsfond. Desse fonda har sidan 2010 vore ei viktig kjelde til finansiering av samarbeid med bedrifter og kommunar i institutta sine heimeregionar. Midlane i dei elleve fonda kjem frå Kunnskapsdepartementet og har vore delte ut av fylkeskommunane.
Går regjeringa sitt forslag gjennom, vil fonda falle vekk utan å bli erstatta av liknande midlar, dei regionale institutta òg vil merke godt. Direktørane har sendt utdannings- og forskingskomiteen på Stortinget ein kritisk uttale, gjengitt som debattinnlegg i Khrono 19. oktober.
– Det er rive vekk eit trinn i trappa med verkemiddel for regionale forskingssamarbeid. Då må vi finne andre måtar å samarbeide på, seier Anne Karin Hamre, direktør ved Vestlandsforsking.
Felles fokus på grønt skifte
Til saman dekkjer dei regionale institutta eit breitt felt av forskingsområde, men på eitt område har alle forskingsaktivitet: korleis skal vi få til eit grønt skifte på ein berekraftig måte.
– Utfordringane vi har på kloden, handlar jo i bunn og grunn om vekst, sa Ailin Aastvedt ved Telemarksforsking.
Sjølv om regionane institutta høyrer til i er ulike, er klima- og naturkrisa og behovet for omstilling gjennomgåande. Frå den spissa livsløps- og berekraftkompetansen til Norsus, via Møreforsking si biologikompetanse og Telemarksforsking sin jordnære profil, med prosjekt om mellom anna berekraft i distriktskommunane, finst det mange rom for å utvide samarbeidet. Nordlandsforsking og Vestlandsforsking har alt eit tett samarbeid på feltet klimatilpassing gjennom forskingssenteret Noradapt, som omfattar åtte fagmiljø.
Slit med å trekke med næringslivet
Det ligg òg ei felles utfordring i det Bård Sandal frå Vestland fylkeskommune sa då han presenterte Grøn region Vestland, eit prosjekt der fylkeskommunen samarbeider med Innovasjon Norge: «Vi har verdsleiande næringsliv, men slit stort med å få bedriftene til å investere i forsking og ny kunnskap».
Anne Merete Halpern frå Kommunal- og distriktsdepartementet presenterte den ferske rapporten Regionale utviklingstrekk 2023. Rapporten viser at forskings- og utviklingsaktivitet (FoU) er konsentrert til dei største byane, og at næringslivet i Vestland fylke nyttar langt mindre midlar til FoU enn t.d. fylka Trøndelag og Vestfold og Telemark.
Sentrale aktørar inviterte inn
Mange sentrale aktørar i forskingsinstitutta si verd var med på samlinga, som Forskingsrådet, Kommunal- og regionaldepartementet, Kunnskapsdepartementet, Klima- og miljødepartementet, Nærings- og fiskeridepartementet og Vestland fylkeskommune.
Statssekretær Oddmund Hoel frå Kunnskapsdepartementet diskuterte arbeidet med den nye stortingsmeldinga om forskingssystemet med leiarane, og fagdirektør Gørill Kristiansen frå same departement var med for å tenke høgt om forskingssystemet i departementa og utfordringar med samarbeid om forskingspolitikk og verkemiddel på tvers av departementa. Statssekretæren hadde merka seg denne tilbakemeldinga frå Fokus-institutta i høyringa til arbeidet med stortingsmeldinga:
Sektorprinsippet står sterkt i norsk forvaltning, og det er ein risiko for at forskingsretta verkemiddel blir nedprioriterte når statsfinansane blir strammare og prioriteringane mellom ulike føremål blir tøffare framover. Det er behov for gode arenaer både politisk og administrativt mellom departementa for å styrke samordninga av forskingsprioriteringar og å auke kunnskapen om Forskingsrådet si rolle.
Å leie andre parallelt med å forske
Instituttsektoren er konkurranseutsett. Det er hard kamp om forskingsmidlar. Samstundes med gjennomføring av prosjekt, må forskarane heile tida jobbe med prosjektutvikling og nye søknader. Dette stiller store krav til motivasjon, fleksibilitet, nettverk og hardt arbeid. Mellomleiarane har òg ei krevjande rolle, ved at dei både driv forsking sjølve, og at dei skal følgje opp og leggje til rette for at forskarane lukkast, utviklar kompetansen sin og trivst i jobbane sine. Ein del av samlinga var lagt opp med ein bolk om leiing for mellomleiarane, ved organisasjonspsykolog Claus Harald Jebsen.
Forskingsleiar for klima og miljø ved Vestlandsforsking, Halvor Dannevig, sette pris på å få møte andre som har liknande oppgåver som han sjølv og dei tre andre mellomleiarane ved instituttet.
– Å treffe andre med ei tilsvarande stilling gir høve til å lære av kvarandre. Det var interessant å få utveksle erfaringar om dei utfordrande sidene ved rolla vår, og vi fekk med oss relevante og gode råd på vegen.
Viken County Municipality, in collaboration with NORSUS, USN, NMBU, and NCCE, is organizing "Capacity Building in Sustainable Value Creation and Green Transformation – Using Digital Transformation and Circular Business Models".
The program consists of a series of webinars and three in-person meetings.
The webinars are open to anyone who wishes to gain more knowledge on the subject.
The in-person meetings are only open to innovation actors in Viken and employees of Viken County Municipality who have received a separate invitation.
The program is designed to be modular – you can participate in the activities that interest you, and the activities do not directly build upon each other, with two exceptions:
The program has divided the activities into two parts, based on the level of expertise:
These two parts overlap throughout the autumn: Each week after the start, there will be a basic-level activity and an advanced-level activity. The digital activities will be scheduled on fixed weekdays: Basic activities every Tuesday and advanced activities every Thursday. The in-person meetings (a total of three) do not follow this pattern.
A new report from NORSUS reveals that the younger generation (under 30 years old) reported the most significant reduction in edible food waste in 2023 and is no longer the worst culprits. In a time when everything is becoming more expensive, and food budgets are getting tighter, there may be a natural explanation for this, as more people understand the connection between using up food and saving money.
Every year, Matvett and NORSUS conduct qualitative surveys to gauge the behavior and attitudes of Norwegians regarding edible food waste. The results are based on self-reported food waste and not on what is actually discarded, which is assessed through waste composition analyses.
This year's results show that consumers report wasting three percent less food compared to the previous year. It is particularly expensive food items like meat and fish that are wasted less, leading to a 10 percent reduction in the economic value of food waste. Bread and bakery products, fruits and vegetables, as well as liquid dairy products and beverages, are the items most frequently discarded, and most of what is thrown away is either unused or partially used.
Young people under the age of 30 used to be the biggest food wasters, but this year, they reported the most significant reduction in food waste and are no longer 'worst in class'. Although the oldest group (over 60 years) still wastes the least, self-reported food waste has increased from 2022 to 2023 for those over 60 years and for those between 40 and 49 years, who are now the biggest food wasters.
Who is wasting what and why?
People who live alone tend to waste more liquid dairy products and more unused or partially used food compared to other household types. Families with children waste more pasta and meal leftovers. The main reasons for food waste include forgetting food in the refrigerator or elsewhere, food having a short shelf life or being of poor quality at purchase, and purchasing too much food. Overbuying is often linked to consumer packaging being too large, miscalculating the required amount, or forgetting what is already at home.
The amount of self-reported food waste per person is also related to individual income: food waste follows a U-shaped curve, where those with lower incomes waste slightly more than those with moderate incomes, until a turning point where food waste increases with income. The survey also shows that those who regularly harvest, hunt, grow, or fish their own food report wasting less than others, while those who frequently use take-out services report wasting more.
The way forward
Aspects such as food quality, packaging sizes, and measures or nudging to help consumers make responsible choices in critical food waste moments and maintain control and order are areas that the food industry and authorities should further work on to reduce food waste.
More specifically, this could include:
How much can we save by not wasting food?
Updated figures indicate that an average family can save NOK 11,450 by not wasting food, and couples under 40 years can save NOK 8,065 (adjusted for price increases through August 2023).
A lot needs to happen quickly if we are to achieve our goals
According to the "Industry Agreement on Reducing Food Waste", Norway aims to halve food waste by 2030. Total food waste has been reduced by 9.5% up to 2020, with consumers among those making the smallest reductions.
NORSUS, With Irmeline de Sadeleer, has this spring been part of an expert panel that evaluated the HIGG MSI and HIGG PM tools owned by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The tools, which measure the environmental performance of textiles and garments, were criticised in 2022 by the Norwegian Consumer Authority for not being based on good enough data to make proper decisions, and thus being misleading when results have been presented to consumers.
An expert panel was set up in 2023 to scrutinize, and make proposals for improvements to the tools, as well as to assess how the results can be communicated. The report is available here.
The project SynoProtein (Carbon capture from syngas to Single Cell Protein (SCP) and use as fish feed Ingredient) started on September1st and it will end by March 2028.
Synoprotein is funded by the Horizon Europe programme under the call-JU-CBE-2022 (Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking).
The project’s coordinator is WAI ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS. WAI is a Norwegian technology company developing and implementing environmental technologies within wastewater treatment, bio-sludge treatment, nutrients and resources recovery, hazardous waste and soil remediation and aquaculture.
The main objective of SynoProtein is to develop and demonstrate a novel carbon-negative process that enables high value creation from sawmill by-products through carbon capture and use (CCU). The aim is to establish a sawmill by-products valorisation process in a continuous flow system at a pilot scale with a production capacity of 5 kg/day for Single Cell Protein (SCP) and biochar each (dry weight). Innovative processes are developed using forest residues to be converted to single cell protein for fish feed ingredients as alternative to the traditional climate and energy intensive soybean and resource-limited wild fish protein production and to biochar production for animal feed. 11 partners from four different European countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Germany) are part of the consortium representing industry, academia, and research institutes. For more information about the project see: https://www.cbe.europa.eu/projects/synoprotein
NORSUS is responsible for assessesing the potential environmental and social impacts of the novel SynoProtein solution by using environmental and social Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodologies. Data will be collected in the consortium from lab scale to pilot plant and published by the end of the project in European platforms. Comparison with the state-of-the-art of the technologies will also be established. Several environmental impact categories such as climate change, water scarcity, resource scarcity and biodiversity will be investigated. In addition, NORSUS will use the Responsible Research & Innovation (RRI) framework and will employ methods for involving the public in the development of the Synoprotein biobased value chains.
We acknowledge that the project is supported by the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE-JU) and its members under Grant Agreement No. 101112345.
This summer, two new researchers have joined the NORSUS team. Lina Plataniti and Fabiana Landi are both passionate about sustainable development and highly dedicated to their new workplace.
“It has always been important for me to have a sense of purpose in my work and therefore to share common values with my employer and collaborators. NORSUS is an institute with expertise on sustainability research and offers comprehensive and robust studies sticking to principles of research ethics and academic integrity,” says Lina Plataniti, who joined NORSUS in August 2023.
With a background in Chemical Engineering (MEng) and Industrial Ecology (MSc), Lina's interest in environmental protection and sustainable development has grown significantly. After just one month with the company, she already senses a shared responsibility and motivation among her colleagues.
“NORSUS offers a very attractive, people-centered working environment. I am very privileged to be a member of NORSUS,” Lina remarks.
Lina is not the only newcomer to the company this year. Fabiana Landi, originally from Brazil, was working as a postdoc in environmental impact studies in Italy when she actively pursued a career opportunity that would enable her to thrive in the field. Her quest led her to NORSUS.
“Working together with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) experts in a country where sustainable development is an actively discussed topic is the best scenario I could ever imagine. Norway is also well known for valuing nature and for having a good work/life balance,” Fabiana explains.
Upon securing the position as Senior Researcher at NORSUS, she relocated to Fredrikstad, an experience she describes as nothing short of perfect:
“I have a quality of life that I could never imagine with many features I consider a luxury as someone originally coming from Sao Paulo in Brazil. I live 10 minutes’ walk from work, the gym is just across the street, the air is clean, the city is calm, and I have easy access to public transportation and all city facilities.”
In the office, the Senior Researcher feels fully embraced and integrated. She greatly appreciates working with colleagues who share her commitment to sustainability as well as integrity and quality in research.
“It deserves much respect. They have been very supportive – not only with job related topics, but also with the moving to Norway process. There is a strong sense of community, and I have no words to express how happy I am to be here,” Fabiana reflects.
CEO of NORSUS, Ellen-Marie Forsberg, expresses her delight that both Lina and Fabiana have chosen to join the company.
“They both bring exciting research experiences that align with the institute as a whole. They are passionate about research, dedicated to sustainability, and are simply wonderful additions to our team,” Forsberg comments.