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A literature review of interventions to reduce household waste

Kathryn Ovenden; Jesse Allpress; Ashleigh Prakash
Auckland Council Research and Evaluation Unit RIMU)
Publication date:  

Executive summary

This literature review explores interventions that aim to reduce waste to landfill, with a focus on food waste. Auckland Council’s Waste Management and Minimisation Plan aspires to achieve zero waste by 20401. The council’s Community WasteWise team funds a significant amount of community-based waste reduction activity in service of this goal.

In 2022, Auckland Council’s Research and Evaluation Unit (RIMU) was commissioned by the WasteWise team to undertake an evaluation to understand the outcomes associated with WasteWise initiatives and to improve the effectiveness of the programme of work. Results of that evaluation are presented in a separate document.

The team also sought to better understand how behavioural insights could be used to inform the initiatives they support. This literature review meets this objective and has been written to complement the WasteWise evaluation, as well as to stand alone for others working to encourage waste-reduction. This review considers non-regulatory approaches to reducing household waste that targets consumers with a focus on interventions related to food waste.

The review found a wide range of intervention types have been tested and many are information-based or used information as a component of an intervention package. These information-only interventions tend to have low effectiveness at changing behaviour.

Effectiveness appears to improve when information is paired with other types of interventions. Examples of effectiveness-enhancing approaches include:

  • providing timely prompts
  • modifying the household environment to make desirable behaviours easier to perform
  • providing personalised feedback on waste production
  • personalised coaching that draws on behavioural research to provide tailoredsolutions to barriers experienced by households
  • eliciting commitments
  • using positive descriptive norms.

Despite the above findings, there are still many gaps in knowledge of what works most effectively. The application of behavioural insights and the use of behaviour change frameworks to inform development of interventions are recommended as an approach to overcome these knowledge gaps. Two frameworks are suggested for use: COM-B model (Capability, Opportunity, Motivation, Behaviour), and EAST framework (Easy, Attractive, Social, Timely).

Auckland Council technical report, TR2023/2

February 2023

See also Evaluation of the Auckland Council Community WasteWise programme of work