A quantitative study on the attitudes, knowledge and behaviour of university students regarding food waste


  • Chloe Dove


Food waste, food safety, purchasing habits, preparation habits, waste disposal methods


The United Kingdom (UK) produces 6.6 million tonnes of household food waste annually; 70% of this was previously edible food (WRAP, 2021). This is nearly £14 billion of wasted food every year and equates to about £60 per month for an average household, or the equivalent of eight meals a week. A study by Zero Waste Scotland (Acheson, 2019) showed that most students at university waste approximately £5.25 worth of food a week, or £273 annually. The aim of this study was to assess university students’ attitudes, knowledge and behaviour towards food waste. An anonymous online questionnaire was distributed, using convenience sampling, to university students in the UK via Canvas and university student forums. Students were asked questions to show their knowledge around use-by and best-before dates, purchasing behaviours and preparation habits. Participants were also asked about attitudes towards food waste and why they can or cannot prevent food waste in the home. Questions were also asked about how these students disposed of food waste. There were 138 responses. The results of the questionnaire showed that students generally understood the difference between use-by and best-before dates, but a small percentage did not. This increases the likelihood of food poisoning if food is consumed past its use-by date and would contribute to food waste if disposed of past its best-before date, whilst still being safe to eat. The results of this study also showed that many students do not write a shopping list or check food stocks before going shopping, which can contribute to impulse purchases and over-buying food, which is ultimately wasted. Many students also struggled to buy economically for small households and ended up preparing too much food, which could either be wasted or contribute to other public health issues such as obesity. The results also showed that university students struggled to dispose of food in an environmentally friendly way as many university accommodations do not provide food waste bins. These results are displayed in graphs and are further discussed with comparisons and differences from the literature. The recommendations that have arisen from this study include enforcing legislation to ensure that food waste is disposed of in an environmentally friendly way and ensuring there are methods of food waste disposal in university accommodations that do not send the waste to landfill. Recommendations were also made for educational campaigns to increase awareness of food safety and the importance of proper food preparation to ensure food is not wasted unnecessarily. The researcher also felt a qualitative approach to this study would gather more in-depth opinions from participants.