Smartphone app concept aims to reduce food waste by 34%

Posted: 11 May 2016 | Victoria White, Digital Content Producer | No comments yet

Loughborough University researchers have developed an app concept which aims to change consumer behaviour and attitudes towards food waste…

Loughborough University researchers have developed an app concept which aims to change consumer behaviour and attitudes towards food waste.

The researchers say the smartphone app concept has the potential to prevent an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of food from being wasted each year in the UK. 

The Pantry app aims to change consumer behaviour and attitudes towards food waste by encouraging us to forward plan and take greater ownership of our food. 

In a study conducted by the Centre for Sustainable Manufacturing and Recycling Technologies (SMART) at Loughborough University, ten volunteers recorded a description of their food waste, its weight and the reason for discarding it – while using a mobile phone to help demonstrate how the Pantry app would work over a seven-day period. 

The functions of the proposed app include: 

  1. A stock list to allow consumers to keep an inventory of when the food was purchased, including expiry dates
  2. An expiry tracker which operates in parallel with the stock list, linked to an alarm to help notify when items are about to exceed the use-by date
  3. A recipe recommendation – advanced versions of the app could include details of what to cook with food left in the fridge/freezer.

Five main types of food were studied – meat, fruits, vegetables, milk and bakery items – including details of the items bought and the expiry dates; these were then manually recorded into the app, with alarm reminders set for three days prior to the expiry date. 

A 34% reduction in food waste

The study showed that as a result of using the app, there was a reduction of 34% food waste across the five food types. Scaled-up for all food types in the UK, this would equate to savings of around 1.5 million tonnes of food waste per year.

Elliot Woolley, Lecturer in Sustainable Manufacturing at the Centre for SMART, said the growing global demand for food is putting pressure on the food industry, with a greater focus on reducing consumer food waste needed to ensure its long term resilience. 

“Our proposed solution – the Pantry app – helps consumers to better manage ingredients bought from retailers and makes it easier to consume food items before the expiry date, reducing wastage and the associated environmental impact in the process,” he said. 

“Changing consumer behaviour by introducing a novel food waste categorisation process and raising awareness of the difference between ‘use-by’ and ‘best before’ dates could go a long way towards discouraging food waste. Our study showed that 60% of food waste was generated due to items having gone past their expiry date, indicating that the management of the food inventory is difficult in domestic environments.”

But what next for the app? Professor Woolley hopes to collaborate with a grocery retailer to move it forward: “In order for the Pantry app to be most effective, we envisage that collaboration with a large grocery retailer could be the way forward if we are to carry out further testing over a longer period with a greater number of participants.” 

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