Domestic Food Waste

Use of emerging technologies in improving awareness of food waste in households

In this project, the objective was to evaluate the use of emerging technologies in improving awareness of food waste in households. Two innovative conceptual system designs were introduced and evaluated. Inspired by future sensing possibilities, the central aim of these concepts was to capture in-home food availability and waste patterns and explore ways to use this information to support awareness.

The methods that were used to explore the potential of these concepts are dividable into four phases of design research. In the first phase, a vision was build, which was informed by findings from literature reviews and exploratory studies involving food waste logging, semi-structured interviews and a focus group. Based on this vision, technological probes were designed and developed. In the third phase, these probes were deployed in homes to evaluate their impact and effectiveness on reducing food waste. Finally, in the last phase, quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed with implications for further design and developments of the concepts.

The United Nations has set goals to raise consumer awareness and reduce food waste by 50 percent before the year 2030. One approach supported by previous literature is to target the collective opposed to the individual in a more local setting.

First, a theory was proposed and investigated in a reaction time study to provide fundamental support for the collective approach, which was expected to inform how emerging technologies should emphasize information: previous research showed that the way we perceive our world depends highly on whether our environment emphasizes interdependence or independence. This link would provide a premise to present information in such a way it emphasizes interdependence or social relations. 

Two concepts were introduced. The first concept, E-Comate, visualizes past consumption patterns with more accessible information of food waste generated by groups of individuals. This concept was tested in a controlled study to investigate the impacts of E-COmate on food waste patterns, awareness, engagements and social interactions in a student residence. Subsequently, more detailed display visualizations for E-COmate were explored in terms of desirability and the level of motivation it could trigger.

Data was collected through a combination of visual inspections, semi-structured interviews, and a questionnaire: findings showed the potential of feedback as a means for improving awareness and engaging users to reduce waste. Based on the findings, design implications with regard to the provision of feedback information were formulated. 

The second concept, Social Recipes, aim at providing visibility for cooperation through recipe suggestions containing ingredients owned by different individuals. This concept is fundamentally different from E-COmate in terms of the timing of intervention (i.e., after vs. before a food is wasted: feedback vs. feed forward, respectively) and type of persuasion (i.e., explicitly vs. implicitly focusing on food wasted) but it is identical in emphasizing interdependence and social relations, the main approach in this project. Initially, expected experiences of the concept were explored in an exploratory study with structured interviews and a focus group. To understand experiences in-situ, a home deployment was conducted using a Wizard of Oz approach.

Overall, the concept of Social Recipes was positively evaluated with expected and observed impacts on awareness, knowledge, and communication, but was not perceived as effective as when feedback is provided in reducing food waste (i.e., E-COmate). Moreover, the impact was different than when feedback is provided. Therefore, both type of strategies (feedback and feed forward) should be used when developing sustainable food-related technology. Based on all findings, general design guidelines were formulated for sustainable food-related technology. 


(1) proposed theory on the relationship between (collective) perception processes, pro-environmental motives and the adoption of sustainable behaviors,

(2) the proposal of an innovative community-based social system including eco-feedback of wasted foods and a concept for food sharing (i.e., Social Recipes),

(3) the development of prototypes and its evaluation in user studies to explore its impacts on awareness and engagements in a realistic setting, and

(4) implications for the design of the overall system that could be used as general design guidelines for more effective future domestic food waste-related technologies in motivating consumers to reduce food waste. 

Overall, this work could serve as an inspiration for researchers, interaction designers, developers and consumers to further explore the use of technology in reducing domestic food waste using a collective approach.


Simon Fraser University, L. Bartram

University of Genova, C. Regazzoni and L. Marcenaro


EMJD ICE PhD funding

Related publications


1.      Lim, V., Funk, M., Regazzoni, C., Marcenaro, L., and Rauterberg, M. (2017). Designing for action: an evaluation of Social Recipes in reducing food waste. In International Journal for Human-Computer Studies, 100(2017), 18 - 32.

2.      Lim, V., Bartram, L., Funk, M., and Rauterberg, M. (2017). To Eat or Not to Eat: An evaluation of the Impact of Eco-feedback in a Student Residence. In ACM Transactions in Computer-Human Interaction. New York, NY: ACM Press (under review). 

Conference proceedings: 

1.      Lim, V., Funk, M., Rauterberg, M., Marcenaro, L., and Regazzoni, C. (2015). E-COmate: What’s your nonconsumption? In I. Rojas, G. Joya and A. Catala (eds.), Advances in Computational Intelligence (pp. 486 - 499). New York, NY: Springer Publisher.

2.      Lim, V., Jense, A., Janmaat, J., and Funk, M. (2014). Eco-Feedback for Non- Consumption. In Adjunct Proceedings of the ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (pp. 99 - 102). New York, NY: ACM Press.

3.      Lim, V., and Yalvaç, F. (2014). Household food waste prevention: How to design and evaluate technological interventions? Paper presented at the SIGCHI HCI & Sustainability community workshop. Toronto, Canada.

4.      Yalvaç, F., Lim, V., Hu, J., Funk, M., and Rauterberg, M. (2014). Social recipe recommendation to reduce food waste. In Extended Abstracts Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2431 - 2436). New York, NY: ACM Press.

5.      Lim, V., Yalvaç, F., Funk, M., Hu, J., Rauterberg, M., Regazzoni, C., and Marcenaro L. (2014). Design implications for a community-based social recipe system. In Proceedings of the World Congress on Sustainable Technologies (pp. 19 - 26). New York, NY: IEEE. 

6.      Lim, V., Yalvac, F., Funk, M., Hu, J., and Rauterberg, M. (2014). Can we reduce waste and waist together through EUPHORIA?. In Proceedings of the PERCOM Workshop on Social Implications of Pervasive Computing (pp. 382 - 387). New York, NY: IEEE.