Generation Z wastes the most food, experts want to find a way to change that

13. 10. 2023
The Czech Republic is one of the most successful EU countries in terms of food waste in households. Almost 80% of Czechs do not waste food at all or waste only up to 5% of the food they buy. However, it is not clear how long this result will be maintained. Generation Z, people born between 1996 and 2009, waste the most food. This is the generation that will pass on patterns of behaviour to the next generation. On the other hand, young people are interested in relevant information and want to reduce waste. Experts from the Faculty of Business Administration and Economics at Mendel University in Brno have therefore focused on Generation Z.

Their aim is to map the baseline of food waste in this age group, measure the effectiveness of the intervention campaigns used and develop a methodology to communicate with them to change behaviour patterns towards sustainable consumption and reduction of food waste. However, the communication of the issue must be appropriately targeted not only in terms of topics but also in terms of the choice of style and communication channels. “Social interactions are very important for Generation Z, where the consumer is looking for their social status and will be more influenced by the environment they come from and the social group they aspire to. So the influence of influencers, for example, can have a greater impact than it does for older generations. Clearly, a multidisciplinary approach combining multiple research methods will be necessary to gain a deeper understanding of food waste among Generation Z,” said project leader Lucie Veselá.

During the first year, food waste analysis will be conducted on selected college campuses in ten different cities. “In the first year of the experiment, a baseline will be measured so that we know the real amount of food waste produced by Generation Z. The mixed municipal waste produced only by generation Z can be considered as the waste generated in the college hostels. However, to be able to talk about the whole Generation Z, we also need to take into account the education and age dispersion within the whole target group. To capture these consumers, however, we cannot measure by household municipal waste collection; waste is always for all household members. Therefore, in these cases, diary surveys will be used, the respondents will fill in other research questions, including the amount of discarded food according to the structure we observe,” explained the project director Veronika Antošová.

College students will not be aware that their waste goes into research. The waste will always be collected by the waste truck at the same time for the entire selected college. The diary surveys will be conducted completely anonymously. “Based on this first phase of the experiment, it will be possible to establish the real amount of food wasted by Generation Z in households and dormitories, and the exact structure of the waste will also be revealed. Furthermore, it will be possible to evaluate which categories are wasted the most, also depending on the season and location,” said project leader Lea Kubíčková. The researchers will skip the summer due to the absence of students in the dormitories.

In the second year, a communication campaign will be launched and at the same time, further measurement will be carried out to reveal the immediate impact of the communication campaign on consumer behaviour and perception of the issue. In the third and final year, the interventions will be stopped and their long-term effect will be monitored. By comparing all the measurements, it will be assessed whether it is necessary to communicate the issue to young people in the long term, or whether it is effective even after the campaign has ended and can be applied in the short term. Throughout the project, research will also be carried out on the link between customer behaviour and incentives from supermarket chains and the impact of macroeconomic indicators on food handling in this age group will be assessed. The project will also include the use of artificial intelligence to predict the impact of social interactions on food waste.

Once the experiment is completed, a comprehensive methodology will be developed to enable targeted work with Generation Z to modify behavioural patterns towards sustainable consumption and reduce food waste. A communication material in the form of an open interactive educational resource will also be created to ensure attractive multi-platform distribution of information to this generation,” Veselá added.

The three-year project was launched in September 2023. The partners of the project, which is funded by TAČR, are the University of Economics in Prague, Charles University and the organizations GREEN Solution s.r.o. and INESAN, s.r.o.

Contact for further information: Lucie Veselá, Ph.D.,, +420 604 375 757, Department of Marketing and Business (PEF)

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