Participatory data collection process focusing on what’s work

The pilot study provides a brief look into the composition and volume of food waste produced in the homes of Sydneysiders. It looks at the type of organic waste produced in relations with household dynamics, the neighborhood structure and embedded practices.

The study asks: What are the organizational changes needed to improve endo and exo social-cultural factors affecting organic waste management in urban communities? Answers are found by using the principles of Action Research.

A control group of 50 households in the greater area of Sydney was encouraged to gather the data themselves by keeping a structured waste diary. The idea was to create a common experience of critical reflection in which the refinement of methods by participants allows to focus on what really works in terms of education and environmental awareness

Step 1: Questionnaire

Verbal construct of knowledge using Q & A

The questionnaire searchs answers regarding the household structure, the built environment and general waste habits. In this step, contributors are presented with a series of open and closed format questions. The questions seek accurate and measurable answers and offer the possiblity to include the opinion of less articulated and/or communicative contestants.

During this phase, participants are encouraged to also share their everyday activities and to express their views on food, eating habits and lifestyle. Since spoken words often have remnants of ambiguity, we add interactions with cards and images allowing contestants to clarify their ideas during face to face exchanges

>>>>>> A sample is available upon request

Step 2: Waste diary

Keeping a record of food waste produced in the household

The waste diary was first tested with a pilot sample of 27 Sydneysiders. Before they fill in their diary, participants were given an introductory talk explaining the purpose of the study and how to fill each entry. Being a structured diary, the layout was designed to be easy to understand and quick to fill in. During the planning process, the diary was pre-tested in several occasions allowing us to improve its design and readability. We included questions about the type of meal. Number of people who shared the meal. The type of food waste produced and the waste bin used for disposal at home.

Benefits of the waste diary

One of the advantages of the diary is that it allows us to move outside the technical and conventional waste data collection scheme. This instrument allows to add another layer of characteristics to have a better understanding of waste issues in homes.

When looking at daily events, as it is the case in this research, the diary is highly recommendable. It has more validity compared with other data collection instruments administrated on one occasion.

Response and level of participation

The diary has fostered waste awareness in participants as it is longer in their top of mind.  Feedbacks were positive for a 7 days period with a response rate of 81%. The diary is to be avoided during festivities and in unordinary moments of people’s lives.

Pilot study on daily habits & food waste management

Musgrave warf, Sydney