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Love Food, Hate Waste? Ambivalence towards Food Fosters People’s Willingness to Waste Food

Benjamin Buttlar (), Lars Löwenstein (), Marie-Sophie Geske (), Heike Ahlmer () and Eva Walther ()
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Benjamin Buttlar: Department of Psychology, University of Trier, Universitätsring 15, 54296 Trier, Germany
Lars Löwenstein: Department of Psychology, University of Trier, Universitätsring 15, 54296 Trier, Germany
Marie-Sophie Geske: Department of Psychology, University of Trier, Universitätsring 15, 54296 Trier, Germany
Heike Ahlmer: Department of Psychology, University of Trier, Universitätsring 15, 54296 Trier, Germany
Eva Walther: Department of Psychology, University of Trier, Universitätsring 15, 54296 Trier, Germany

Sustainability, 2021, vol. 13, issue 7, 1-24

Abstract: Food waste is the origin of major social and environmental issues. In industrial societies, domestic households are the biggest contributors to this problem. But why do people waste food although they buy and value it? Answering this question is mandatory to design effective interventions against food waste. So far, however, many interventions have not been based on theoretical knowledge. Integrating food waste literature and ambivalence research, we propose that domestic food waste can be understood via the concept of ambivalence—the simultaneous presence of positive and negative associations towards the same attitude object. In support of this notion, we demonstrated in three pre-registered experiments that people experienced ambivalence towards non-perishable food products with expired best before dates. The experience of ambivalence was in turn associated with an increased willingness to waste food. However, two informational interventions aiming to prevent people from experiencing ambivalence did not work as intended (Experiment 3). We hope that the outlined conceptualization inspires theory-driven research on why and when people dispose of food and on how to design effective interventions.

Keywords: domestic food waste; ambivalence; date labeling; best before; theory-driven; intervention (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O13 Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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