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Doctoral thesis, 2022

Food waste reduction in the public catering sector

Malefors, Christopher


Food waste is attracting global attention and there are stated ambitions to halve food waste by 2030. This thesis presents detailed information on quantities of food waste in the food service sector, with particular focus on the Swedish public catering sector. It examines where waste occurs, why it occurs, what can be done to reduce it and whether the ambitions to halve food waste by 2030 is achievable. The information collected covered the period 2010-2020 and originated from 3 386 kitchens operating in canteens, care homes, hotels, hospitals, preschools, schools and restaurants throughout Sweden, Norway, Finland and Germany. The results indicate that 18% of food served in the sector is wasted, although there is large variation between catering units. The main risk factor for food waste generation was identified as being amount of food prepared relative to number of guests attending, an issue that kitchens can tackle by improved forecasting. Forecasting as a waste reduction measure was tested in Swedish school canteens, alongside awareness campaigns, introducing tasting spoons and a plate waste tracker providing feedback to guests to nudge their behaviour. All these measures reduced food waste, but only forecasting and the plate waste tracker reduced total food waste more than in a set of reference canteens that had none of these measures in place. The mass of food waste generated in Swedish preschools, primary schools and secondary schools has declined by 25% since 2016. The amount of food waste to be halved by 2030 was estimated to 21,000 t for preschools and schools, which corresponds to 21 g/guest. Systematic work on food waste reduction, with quantification as a core step to evaluate current ambitions, is necessary to achieve a more sustainable food system.


Kitchens; quantification; risk factors; forecasting; reduction measures

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2022, number: 2022:39
ISBN: 978-91-7760-953-7, eISBN: 978-91-7760-954-4
Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences