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Model selection and averaging in the assessment of the drivers of household food waste to reduce the probability of false positives

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matthew Grainger, Dr Gavin Stewart



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Food waste from households contributes the greatest proportion to total food waste in developed countries. Therefore, food waste reduction requires an understanding of the socio-economic (contextual and behavioural) factors that lead to its generation within the household. Addressing such a complex subject calls for sound methodological approaches that until now have been conditioned by the large number of factors involved in waste generation, by the lack of a recognised definition, and by limited available data. This work contributes to food waste generation literature by using one of the largest available datasets that includes data on the objective amount of avoidable household food waste, along with information on a series of socio-economic factors. In order to address one aspect of the complexity of the problem, machine learning algorithms (random forests and boruta) for variable selection integrated with linear modelling, model selection and averaging are implemented. Model selection addresses model structural uncertainty, which is not routinely considered in assessments of food waste in literature. The main drivers of food waste in the home selected in the most parsimonious models include household size, the presence of fussy eaters, employment status, home ownership status, and the local authority. Results, regardless of which variable set the models are run on, point toward large households as being a key target element for food waste reduction interventions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Grainger MJ, Aramyan L, Piras S, Quested TE, Righi S, Setti M, Vittuari M, Stewart GB

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLOS one

Year: 2018

Volume: 13

Issue: 2

Online publication date: 01/02/2018

Acceptance date: 15/12/2017

Date deposited: 05/02/2018

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: PLOS


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192075


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