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Publisert: 30.03.2023
Oppdatert: 30.03.2023

Thomas Hovmøller Ris

“People do want to reduce food waste, but we need to understand their competing motivations better,” NORCE researcher Patrycja Antosz says. They will be using a state-of-the-art method to identify key levers for changing social norms and behavior towards food waste.

Oh, the excitement when you hear that hotel breakfast is served until 10! Sitting for an hour, enjoying a good start to your day and – obviously – the chance of an all-you-can-eat breakfast is something many people can relate to. The sole thought of gorgeous buffet tables full of delightful treats, accompanied by alluring aromas coming from the kitchen makes your mouth water.

The quality of breakfast buffets is among the most important factors guiding guests’ decisions to book a specific hotel. But when the breakfast plate is filled, your senses might be writing checks that your stomach is simply not able to cash. Especially when everyone around you seems confident about their substantial portion sizes. Consequently approx. 20% of the content of those gorgeous buffet tables ends up in a garbage bin.

- The EU countries waste more food than they import, and the European Commission made a commitment to halve food waste by 2030. The efforts will help tackle climate change and improve food security. To responsibly propose good practices that reduce food loss and waste, we need to uncover the multilevel mechanisms at play, including the biological and social dimensions of eating. In this project we are investigating how to use human nature to our advantage Patrycja Antosz says, Head of Center for Modeling Social Systems at NORCE Norwegian Research Centre.

Identifying behavior that drives food waste

Patrycja Antosz leads one of seven work packages in the CHORIZO project, a new EU project aiming to reduce food waste. The project, funded with 6 million EUR by the EU Horizon Europe program, is a multinational collaboration of 14 partners, including Nordic Choice Hotels and NORCE representing Norway.

To reduce food loss and waste, six case studies will investigate a variety of consumption contexts. In the hotel context in Norway, we will experiment with various communication strategies that influence social norms, including providing real-time feedback on how much food is lost and checking if the form in which you serve food (i.e., buffet vs plated) can tackle some of the challenges.

- To make a significant, long-lasting impact, we need to understand the interplay between various behavioral drivers in a complex socio-ecological system. The latest developments in applying AI to social problems offer such an opportunity, Antosz says.

The role of NORCE is to develop computer models of social phenomena and simulate the possible effects of specific solutions before testing them in real life through implementing a computational science method called agent-based modeling.

- Agent-based modeling is a state-of-the-art methodology used to simulate complex adaptive systems that are both multilevel and dynamic. The methodology can be applied to a vast array of problems and surpasses the more traditional ML techniques focusing on prediction by additionally offering insights into causal mechanisms, Antosz says.

In the CHORIZO project the method will be used it to test what strategies for changing social norms will bring about the most effective food loss and waste reductions.

- The CHORIZO project is a good example of how the latest developments in computational social science can help key stakeholders like Nordic Choice Hotels create a positive impact in their daily lives. At NORCE, we believe that putting science into action can really make a positive impact.

Biggest project on food waste in Europe

With one of Europe’s leading research groups specializing in agent-based modeling, NORCE is pleased to be a part of the CHORIZO project.

- This is the largest agent-based modeling project on food waste in Europe, possibly even globally. Only working in transdisciplinary, mixed-method teams and utilizing cutting-edge approaches can guide us towards a zero-waste future.

The CHORIZO project is carried out over 36 months and the knowledge from the project will be used to improve the effectiveness of decision-making and engagement of food chain actors. The 14 European partners in the project include among others Food Associations, Technological Centers, Universities, Food Bank Association, Innovation Clusters.