Food Waste Interventions Analysis

In 2019, the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Waste Partnership (RECAP) commissioned Resource Futures to undertake a comprehensive waste composition analysis, covering kerbside collected residual and organic waste streams across the six partner areas.

Following the results of this analysis, RECAP identified food as a key area to target going forwards and sought our support to help them investigate suitable targeted interventions.

The Resource Futures team used street level results from the waste composition data to draw out key demographics for attention. These were then aligned with population demographics to identify a suite of potential, suitable intervention strategies.


In order to identify the groups most suited to food related intervention campaigns, it was important to identify which groups were exhibiting the least effective food recycling behaviours in the local context. As food waste can be addressed in two ways, the objectives of our research were to identity ways to:

Increase food recycling capture rates (%): Who is using the food recycling bin the least?

Decreasing food waste arisings (tonnages): Who is producing the largest volume of food, and especially avoidable food?


Drilling into the household waste analysis results, our team identified a range of primary demographic Open Area Classification (OAC) supergroup and subgroups where greatest behavioural improvements were feasible.

  • Residents barely using their food recycling bins: These groups require a campaign which encourages separation of food waste from residual waste to enable it to be recycled, and tackling the barriers currently preventing them from doing this.
  • Residents producing the highest levels of total food waste: High food waste volumes, especially of avoidable food waste, suggest inefficient purchasing habits. These groups require campaign messaging encouraging better shopping and food usage tactics, to both help them Buy What they Eat, and also Eat What they Buy.


We also identified additional groups for RECAP to consider for future prioritisation. These groups were again producing above average amounts of food waste, with below average recycling rates, but at less extreme levels than the primary identified groups.

In order to identify the most effective interventions needed to tackle each problem the OAC supergroups and subgroups present in the RECAP area were aligned with a set of national population segmentation profiles.

Identifying six general categories of behavioural patterns based on a range of available metrics, we mapped the primary groups to the national segmentations. This enabled us to understand the typical group characteristics, their attitudinal and behavioural traits associated with recycling, along with an indication of the most appropriate messaging strategies to overcome barriers to recycling that each group identifies with.


“Whilst it was difficult to implement the plans that we had in 2020, we were still able to make use of the brilliant work performed by Resource Futures to help us understand and share the communication needs of the range of communities across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough with colleagues and members. This understanding allowed us to focus our other work, such as social media, in the meantime.”
Mark Mathews, Head of Environmental Services, Fenland District Council

As a result of our research we were able to produce a concise report to RECAP detailing:

  • Specific demographic groups showing highest promise for behaviour change interventions, and whether this would relate to food waste recycling or food waste reduction campaigns.
  • A range of interventions best suited to tackling these opportunities, with detail provided on intervention type, key messaging styles of likely resonance, and the most suitable communication channels to enable change.
  • A skeleton communication plan outlining low, medium and high cost intervention case studies.
  • Postcode and street level listings to identify the specific areas best suited to the chosen subgroups across the six RECAP districts.

Project Information

Services involved

Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling

Data and Tools

Private: Communications

Behaviour Change

Team involved

Sarah Hargreaves
Behaviour Change Lead / Principal Consultant

Peter Wills
Evidence Lead / Principal Consultant

Susan Gow
Senior Consultant

Polly Whight