Ambitious campaigns aim to transform household behaviour and combat food packaging waste
In an effort to address the rising issue of food packaging waste, the EIT food funded project InformPack has embarked on a mission to educate and empower households across Europe, aiming to change behaviour and address the challenges people face in dealing with food packaging waste at home. EIT Food is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.
Effective management of food packaging waste is crucial to mitigate environmental impact. Proper handling not only preserves natural resources but also prevents pollution. Households play a vital role in managing food packaging waste. By adopting responsible waste management practices, households actively contribute to environmental sustainability by reducing the overall ecological impact.
"Households are major contributors to packaging waste production, and it's crucial to focus on how people manage it at home. The complexities surrounding food packaging, including technical materials and symbols, lead to confusion among consumers. We want to bridge this gap by providing essential information and tools," explains Geraldine Vasquez Pergolesi, Research Assistant at Department of Food Science at Aarhus University in Denmark, and project coordinator for the EIT Food funded project; InformPack.
The project employs a unique approach by involving the public in shaping its campaigns. Geraldine Vásquez highlights: "We ask people what they want to know, what they already know, and how they want to learn more. This information guides us in creating targeted campaigns that address specific challenges faced by consumers."
Campaigns across Europe
Project InformPack initially launched campaigns in the UK and Greece as a proof of concept. The project's initial campaigns addressed issues such as understanding symbols on packaging and the importance of using food packaging, especially for fresh produce. Geraldine Vásquez highlights the challenges faced by consumers, even experts, in decoding symbols like the "tidy man."
"We want to provide basic literacy to navigate the complexities of food packaging," she explains.
"Our goal is not to dictate choices but to empower individuals with knowledge to make informed decisions about their waste management practices."
The success of the first campaigns prompted expansions to Poland and Spain this year. The results from the campaigns reveal the impact on consumer behaviour and awareness.
In Spain and Poland, the project engaged 300 participants per country, targeting individuals aged 18 to 41 years old. The campaigns, delivered through video and infographic formats, delved into important themes such as:
- Mixed Materials for Recycling (e.g., yogurt pots and metal lids) – Focused in both Spain and Poland.
- Recycling Process – Emphasized in Spain.
- Package Symbols – Addressed in Poland.
The results were impressive, with participants reporting an average of three intended action items after experiencing the campaigns in either video or infographic format. Notably, over 89% of Polish participants and 96% of Spanish participants expressed intentions to incorporate at least one action into their daily routines. Furthermore, a substantial portion—64% in Poland and 85% in Spain—claimed to have learned something new and useful from the campaigns.
"The data underline the effectiveness of our approach. We're not just disseminating information; we're inspiring tangible changes in behaviour, fostering a more conscious approach to waste management," Geraldine Vásquez says.
Starting with school children
A new initiative from InformPack, aimed at school children, has achieved success in Spain during its pilot programme this year, where engaging activities were carefully conducted to heighten awareness among the students.
"We've introduced the 'Recycle Hero' concept, turning educational quizzes into an exciting adventure for children. It's a part of our broader strategy to instil responsible waste management habits from a young age," she added.
As the project progresses, plans for 2024 include further collaboration with schools and a comprehensive dissemination of campaign materials in five additional countries, including France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, and Finland.
About Project InformPack
InformPack explores the cross-cultural variations among consumers in terms of awareness, information gaps, issues and attitudes towards food packaging as related to product choice upon purchase and disposal patterns at home and on the go. InformPack use these findings to create actions, tools, and strategies that can influence public behaviour and future solutions. With this, the project hope to support a transition to a more sustainable European food-packaging ecosystem.
The project is funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT Food), as a cooperation between:
- Aarhus University, Denmark
- Reading University, UK
- Maspex, Poland (food industry)
- VTT, Finland (research institution)
- Bioazul, Spain (engineering and technology consultancy)
For more information about Project InformPack and access to campaign materials, please visit www.eitfood.eu/projects/informpack
Read also about the results and findings in the scientific paper published in the Journal of Cleaner Production titled “Understanding consumers' sustainability knowledge and behavior towards food packaging to develop tailored consumer-centric engagement campaigns: A Greece and the United Kingdom perspective.”
For more information, please contact:
Geraldine Vásquez, Research Assistant at Department of Food Science at Aarhus University in Denmark
Telephone: +45 93588295
Niki Alexi: Principal Investigator, Tenure Track Assistant Professor at Department of Food Science at Aarhus University in Denmark
About EIT Food
EIT Food is the world’s largest and most dynamic food innovation community. We accelerate innovation to build a future-fit food system that produces healthy and sustainable food for all.
Supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, we invest in projects, organisations and individuals that share our goals for a healthy and sustainable food system. We unlock innovation potential in businesses and universities, and create and scale agrifood startups to bring new technologies and products to market. We equip entrepreneurs and professionals with the skills needed to transform the food system and put consumers at the heart of our work, helping build trust by reconnecting them to the origins of their food.
We are one of eight innovation communities established by the European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT), an independent EU body set up in 2008 to drive innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.