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Journal article

Citizen science for quantifying and reducing food loss and food waste

This paper identifies citizen science opportunities to address food waste-related SDGs.

Rachel Pateman, Evelin Piirsalu, Emilie Stokeld, Sarah West / Published on 17 December 2020

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Pateman, R.M., de Bruin, A., Piirsalu, E., Reynolds, C., Stokeld, E. and West, S.E. (2020) Citizen Science for Quantifying and Reducing Food Loss and Food Waste. Front. Sustain. Food Syst.

Food loss and food waste are urgent global problems relating to environmental and social challenges including biodiversity loss, climate change, health, and malnutrition.  Reduction targets have been set, including Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3, which aims to halve per capita food waste at retail and consumer levels globally by 2030, as well as reduce food losses along production and supply chains.

Citizen science, the engagement of members of the public in data collection and other elements of the scientific process, can play a role in tackling the problem of food waste and food loss.

The authors of this paper scope the opportunities for using citizen science to answer 26 priority research questions identified by experts in the field of food waste and food loss as being critical to achieving SDG12.3. They describe how citizen science can be used to quantify and understand causes of food loss and waste.

Crucially, they demonstrate the value of citizen science in being not just a data gathering tool but also a method of bringing about change through influencing action, from individual behavior to policy making. Furthermore, they argue that all actors in the food system are brought together in citizen science projects in order to build shared understanding that will ultimately lead to reduced loss and waste across the food system.

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Open access

SEI authors

Rachel Pateman


SEI York

Evelin Piirsalu

Senior Expert (Green and Circular Economic Transformations Unit)

SEI Tallinn

Emilie Stokeld

Research Associate

SEI York

Sarah West

Centre Director

SEI York

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