Stop Food Waste survey suggests temptation gets in the way of good intention!

Date released: Dec 05 2013

A survey conducted by the EPA’s Stop Food Waste programme found that Irish people appear to be more conscious about reducing their food waste by planning meals (46%) and making shopping lists (54%), but 67% say that the main reason they throw food in the bin is because they don’t use it on time or it’s past its use by date. The findings would suggest that our intentions to only buy what we need are very good but temptation gets in the way.

"Shops want us to buy lots of stuff and use a variety of psychological tricks to tempt us. Even if we go with great intentions we often end up coming out with food we won’t use and it ends up in the bin” said Odile Le Bolloch, spokesperson for Stop Food Waste at the EPA.  “Simple things like making a list and not shopping when you’re hungry can help us buy only what we need. Also understanding some of the key ways where shops tempt us through design and product placement you will be ready to resist them and go home with just the food you need and without those extra things that eat into your budget and often become waste”.

An RTE TV1 documentary entitled  “Waste Watchers”  to be aired at 6.30pm on Sunday 8th December presented by Philip Boucher Hayes  looks at how the town of Killorglin in County Kerry got on over the summer months when they put their minds to reducing food waste. When asked, most people in Killorglin thought they were very careful about not throwing away food. However, after measuring their food waste, most were surprised at how much food they were actually wasting. Assisted by Stop Food Waste, all found room to further reduce what they were throwing away by changing some key behaviours in relation to planning their meals and shopping.

Philip Boucher Hayes, who witnessed this transformation first hand, said “There’s millions in our bins. I’ll admit I was initially pretty sceptical about how much of it could actually be diverted back to our wallets. I shouldn’t have been. Because if the whole country copied what the people and businesses of Killorglin have done there’s hundreds of millions of euro waiting to be put to better use.”

The Stop Food Waste survey also suggests that we are getting better at using up our leftovers with 45.3% always using up leftovers and 42.1% occasionally using up leftovers. As leftovers are generally foods that have been previously cooked it would suggest that the majority of the food that goes in the bin never even made it to the oven let alone out of its packaging!

"If you have over purchased and end up with food in your fridge that you’re just not going to get around to eating, all is not lost, there’s always the freezer where the typical foods that we waste such as bread, meat, fish can be safely stored for later use", recommends Odile Le Bolloch.

When asked how much their food waste costs them, 88% of respondents answered “less than €50 per month”.

“This figure ties in with what we generally estimate for household food waste at €700 per year, but we found that when householders in Killorglin made a concerted effort to measure their food waste in a separate bin and fully cost it out the figure tended to be higher, plus there are the additional associated costs of food waste such as the cost to go shopping for food, and the energy used for storage and preparation” said Odile Le Bolloch.

The STOP Food Waste programme is funded under the EPA National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP). Waste Prevention is the preferred waste management option in Ireland. By not generating waste, we can eliminate the need to handle, transport, treat and dispose of waste. We can also avoid having to pay for these services. In light of the significant issues arising from the disposal of food waste, and the realisation of the costs associated with this, one aim of the NWPP is to promote food waste prevention and home composting.


  • Don’t go shopping when you are hungry - you’ll buy more than you need!
  • If you are shopping for the week try and plan your meals ahead.
  • Check your fridge, freezer and cupboards before you go shopping and plan meals around what you find.
  • Then make a shopping list...and try to stick to it!
  • Beware of special deals - these are great for toilet rolls and shampoo but bad for fruit, veg and salads (anything that is best eaten fresh). These are the things we buy because of a "good deal" but often do not get eaten.
  • Try and buy loose fruit and veg - you get what you need and can cut down on packaging waste in your bin as well.
  • Check use-by dates to avoid buying food that might get thrown out if not eaten immediately.
  • Poke around at the back of shelves - you’ll often find ‘use-by dates’ that are further away.
  • Shop for what you actually eat, not for what you want/wish you would eat (e.g. "I am going to be really healthy this week and eat lots of yogurts!") and then not eat them!
  • If it’s an option for you, try shopping online for the basics - you get what you want and save money by not being tempted to buy more on visual impulse.

The STOP Food Waste survey was conducted across Ireland in November 2013 with a total of 667 respondents nationwide.

Further information: Annette Cahalane/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or