The impact of NORSUS’ food waste research


The impact of NORSUS’ food waste research

As part of a sector evaluation we summarised the impact of our food waste research. Results from NORSUS’ research on food waste has laid the foundation of the current Norwegian policy framework for food waste prevention (the negotiated agreement). It has also impacted the current EU framework on food loss and waste (FLW). The research has contributed to the national and EU definition of FLW, methodology and guidance for quantification of FLW, and identification of FLW hotspots in the food supply chain as well as prevention and reduction strategies which in turn has contributed to an annual reduction in national food waste equivalent to 114 850 tons of CO2-eqvivialents and 2,2 billion NOK.

NORSUS has led and participated in several national and international cross disciplinary research projects on FLW:

Quantification methodology, monitoring and statistics:

In the government and industry funded ForMat project (2010-2016), where NORSUS were the scientific responsible partner, NORSUS developed definitions, methodology, guidance documents for food waste quantification as well as food waste statistics for the Norwegian food manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and households. In the EU funded project FUSIONS (2012-2016) NORSUS contributed to harmonization of food waste monitoring and a Common Food Waste Policy for EU27. In the Nordic Project on food waste prevention (2013-2016) funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, NORSUS developed definitions and quantification methodology for food losses in agriculture. Also, in the project, the total amount of waste in primary production in the Nordic countries was measured and estimated. In the RCN and industry funded KuttMatsvinn2020 project led by NORSUS, guidance and methodology for food waste quantification and national food waste statistics for the food service industry was developed.

In the Nordic project, Monitoring FoodWaste and Loss in the Nordic region, led by NORSUS and financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers (2020-2021) best practice for food loss and waste quantification and monitoring in the Nordic region was identified.

One of the results from the early stages of the ForMat project was the establishment of Matvett AS in 2012. Matvett is a key partner for NORSUS who has ensured industry uptake of large parts of the presented research. Matvett is the food and hospitality industry’s organization for preventing food waste, and does this through collaboration with research organizations and the authorities, on behalf of the industry. Through close collaboration with Matvett, NORSUS’ research has been implemented in various ways:

  • Harmonised food waste monitoring and reporting across the food supply chain in Norway through yearly workshops, guidelines and tools.
  • Various food waste prevention and reduction actions across the food value chain:
    • Systematic discounting of food products that are approaching the expiration date across all retailers in Norway (2017).
    • Changes in date labelling for a large number of food products with «Best before» instead of «Expires by” (2014-2016).
    • Courses for employees in the food service sector on food waste (2019).
    • Collaboration on allocation of shelf life for minimal food waste through STAND

The above-mentioned research on monitoring and quantification has identified how food loss and waste should be quantified across the food value chain (both in the national, Nordic and European contexts). The research has also identified the hot spots of food loss and waste, what types of food is wasted, the economic and environmental impact of the food loss and waste, why food is lost/wasted and how food loss and waste can be prevented and reduced. The projects have also identified the food waste behaviour and attitudes for different consumer types. The research has contributed to put food waste on the Norwegian and European policy agendas and underpinned the importance of monitoring of food waste as well as actions towards food waste prevention.

Prevention and reduction:

In the Nordic Project on food waste prevention (mentioned above), NORSUS identified how different types of date labels affect food waste, how increased shelf life can prevent food waste from occurring and the need for supplementary date labelling and guidance that can reduce food waste. The project also established a Nordic platform for redistribution and developed best practices for food redistribution. In the RCN funded projects Breadpack (2013-2016) and Greenpack (2013 – 2015) different packaging strategies for reducing food waste were tested, analysed and documented. In the SUSFOOD and RCN funded AVARE project different strategies for prevention and reduction of food waste in the food service sector were identified and evaluated. In the RCN funded BREAD project (2019-2022) obstacles for responsible innovation in the food sector related to food waste prevention and reduction were investigated. One of the concrete outputs from the project was the 10 principles to reduce food waste together, a industry-anchored framework that identifies several key challenges and solutions regarding how the food industry can halve food waste by 2030 through responsible innovation and collaboration.

In addition to the overarching implementation via Matvett, several of the research projects mentioned in section 2 have been executed in close collaboration with industry. Breadpack and Greenpack was conducted in close collaboration with the industry (BAMA and Cernova). The packaging strategies tested within the two projects were implemented by the industry afterwards.

The above-mentioned research on prevention and reduction, as well as some of the projects on monitoring and quantification, have developed concrete sector specific guidelines on how to reduce food waste, developed policy briefs and identified and prioritized different policy, industry and consumer actions towards halving food waste by 2030 (the SDG goal 12.3 and the goal of the negotiated industry agreement). The work has also contributed to the food waste reduction of 14 % within the Norwegian food sector.

The research has had a strong impact on the Norwegian policy framework on food waste. The ForMat project laid the foundation of an intentional agreement in 2015 for a food waste agreement. NORSUS was commissioned to develop a report on the data basis for food waste and proposals for the organization of reporting food waste in Norway, which in turn laid the foundation of the Recommendation for the development of food waste statistics in Norway  that led to the establishment of the negotiated agreement on food waste reduction between the authorities and food industry organizations in Norway (2017).

The research from the various project has also documented the environmental and economic impact from food waste. Due to these analyses, food waste has been set high on the environmental policy agenda in Norway. Norway is one of few countries that has included food waste into the country climate mitigation strategy. The Norwegian environmental agency contracted NORSUS to perform a cost benefit analysis (CBA) of halving food waste according to the negotiated agreement. This was done for the first time in 2016, and since then NORSUS has performed three CBAs, where the latest one was implemented into the national roadmap for climate mitigation KlimaKur2030, where food waste reduction is one of the main climate actions for agriculture. Food waste is also implemented within the Norwegian government’s National strategy for a green, circular economy, where NORSUS’ research on food waste forms the knowledge base, and in the Climate Plan for 2021-2030 where NORSUS’ analyses for KlimaKur, the ForMat project and the KuttMatsvinn2020 project are referred to.

The ForMat project is also credited for contributing to the establishment of the first Norwegian Food Bank in 2013. Today Norway has 13 Food Banks saving more than 5,000 tonnes of food from going to waste that are redistributed to more than 480 non-profit organizations that help people in vulnerable life situations. The industry’s work under the negotiated agreement has been crucial for this development.

The FUSIONS project and the subgroup on FLW monitoring within the EU platform on FLW laid the groundwork for the common methodology and minimum quality requirements for the uniform measurement of levels of food waste defined by the Commission Delegated Decision (EU) 2019/1597 of 3 May 2019 supplementing Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council.

In addition, NORSUS researchers have worked with a number of municipalities and counties to reduce food waste in their operations. NORSUS has carried out several projects to reduce food waste in the care sector in Norwegian municipalities Fredrikstad, Sandefjord, Bergen, Østre Toten, Voss, og Hamar. We have also carried out similar projects in the school sector in several Norwegian county municipalities Troms og Finnmark, Viken, Vestland and Innlandet. See e.g. Guide for reducing food waste in the care sector and Reduction of food waste in Sandefjord municipality

Scientific publications on food waste quantification methodology:

  • Sara Corrado, Carla Caldeira, Mattias Eriksson, Ole Jørgen Hanssen, Hans-Eduard Hauser, Freija van Holsteijn, Gang Liu, Karin Östergren, Andrew Parry, Luca Secondi, Åsa Stenmarck, Serenella Sala. 2019. “Food waste accounting methodologies: Challenges, opportunities, and further advancements”. Global Food Security, Volume 20. 2019, Pages 93-100, ISSN 2211-9124,
  • Malefors, Christopher, Pieter Callewaert, Per-Anders Hansson, Hanna Hartikainen, Oona Pietiläinen, Ingrid Strid, Christina Strotmann, and Mattias Eriksson. 2019. «Towards a Baseline for Food-Waste Quantification in the Hospitality Sector—Quantities and Data Processing Criteria» Sustainability 11, no. 13: 3541.
  • Hanna Hartikainen, Lisbeth Mogensen, Erik Svanes, Ulrika Franke. 2018. “Food waste quantification in primary production – The Nordic countries as a case study”. Waste Management, Volume 71, Pages 502-511, ISSN 0956-053X.
  • Ole Jørgen Hanssen, Frode Syversen, Eivind Stø. 2016. “Edible food waste from Norwegian households—Detailed food waste composition analysis among households in two different regions in Norway”. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Volume 109, Pages 146-154, ISSN 0921-3449.

Scientific publications on food waste prevention and reduction strategies:

  • Bergström, Pauline, Christopher Malefors, Ingrid Strid, Ole Jørgen Hanssen, and Mattias Eriksson. 2020. «Sustainability Assessment of Food Redistribution Initiatives in Sweden» Resources 9, no. 3: 27.
  • Svanes, Erik, Sofie Oestergaard, and Ole Joergen Hanssen. 2019. «Effects of Packaging and Food Waste Prevention by Consumers on the Environmental Impact of Production and Consumption of Bread in Norway» Sustainability 11, no. 1: 43.
  • Mattias Eriksson, Christopher Malefors, Pieter Callewaert, Hanna Hartikainen, Oona Pietiläinen, Ingrid Strid. 2019 “What gets measured gets managed – Or does it? Connection between food waste quantification and food waste reduction in the hospitality sector”. Resources, Conservation & Recycling: X, Volume 4, 100021, ISSN 2590-289X.
  • Østergaard, Sofie, and Ole Jørgen Hanssen. 2018. «Wasting of Fresh-Packed Bread by Consumers—Influence of Shopping Behavior, Storing, Handling, and Consumer Preferences» Sustainability 10, no. 7: 2251.