What gets measured gets managed: A new method of measuring household food waste

Efrat Elimelech, Ofira Ayalon, Eyal Ert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The quantification of household food waste is an essential part of setting policies and waste reduction goals, but it is very difficult to estimate. Current methods include either direct measurements (physical waste surveys) or measurements based on self-reports (diaries, interviews, and questionnaires). The main limitation of the first method is that it cannot always trace the waste source, i.e., an individual household, whereas the second method lacks objectivity. This article presents a new measurement method that offers a solution to these challenges by measuring daily produced food waste at the household level. This method is based on four main principles: (1) capturing waste as it enters the stream, (2) collecting waste samples at the doorstep, (3) using the individual household as the sampling unit, and (4) collecting and sorting waste daily. We tested the feasibility of the new method with an empirical study of 192 households, measuring the actual amounts of food waste from households as well as its composition. Household food waste accounted for 45% of total waste (573 g/day per capita), of which 54% was identified as avoidable. Approximately two thirds of avoidable waste consisted of vegetables and fruit. These results are similar to previous findings from waste surveys, yet the new method showed a higher level of accuracy. The feasibility test suggests that the proposed method provides a practical tool for policy makers for setting policy based on reliable empirical data and monitoring the effectiveness of different policies over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-81
Number of pages14
JournalWaste Management
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for funding this study through research grant no. 20-14-0030 to the PI, Dr. Ron Porat, Department of Postharvest Science of Fresh Produce, Agricultural Research Organization at the Volcani Center. We want to express our appreciation to the Department of Sanitation of Haifa Municipality for providing the operational site for the sorting and assisting with posting the recruitment ads via the municipal Facebook page. We also thank Seagull Environmental Planning Ltd., who provided manpower and logistics for the study. Finally, we are profoundly grateful to Ms. Nirit Avnimelech and Mr. Yuval Marmur for their valuable advice.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Avoidable food waste
  • Food waste composition
  • Food waste generation rate
  • Food waste quantification
  • Household food waste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal


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