Food waste remains a large problem globally, not only in the light of global greenhouse gas emissions, but also in the light of decreasing resource availability. Research in this area has so far mainly focused on behavioral factors influencing production of food waste, while the formal and informal institutions that relate to the management of waste play an equally important role in shaping individual and company behavior. This research focuses on how food waste can be better managed among students, one of the biggest food waste contributors in the national food waste account, and other actors, such as companies and supermarkets, which continuously produce a lot of food waste. Accordingly, this thesis asks as a main research question: How do Institutional Barriers and Drivers influence the Food Waste Management of Students and Food Waste Initiatives in Cologne?
The case study is the city of Cologne, Germany. The city of Cologne has been chosen as a single-case study due to the fact that it is one of the largest student cities in Germany and also home to many companies and initiatives that are engaging in reducing food waste. Data is collected through literature search, interviews and student surveys. The interviews have been conducted with nine different actors from food waste initiatives, supermarkets or associations. The data from the interviews has ben anonymized for the purposes of this thesis. The research follows an inductive and qualitative approach, which is why the survey that is collecting data from students is not used for statistical analysis. The aim is to find the drivers and barriers for food waste and develop a theory in the best case from it.
This research captures the informal institutions (i.e. norms, rules and strategies) that shape student behavior, in conjunction with the strategies of different waste companies and initiatives. These informal institutions are analyzed within the framing of formal rules and regulations relating to food waste. The institutional network analysis (INA) approach that is built on the Institutional Analysis Development (IAD) framework and Institutional grammar (IG) is used to relate all institutions together in one picture to identify potential institutional misalignments. The collected data from the literature, the interviews and the survey, is coded using the institutional grammar by Ostrom (1995). Additionally, this thesis develops the institutional grammar a little further by introducing some new elements. On the one hand survey data is used for the first time in the institutional network analysis, which overall gives the network analysis more credibility through a larger data base. On the other hand, expectations have been introduced to the networks as a new element next to rules, norms and strategies. By using the institutional grammar according to Ostrom (1995), five action situations were identified. Action situations, or action arenas are situations in which rules, norms and strategies through conflicts form actor’s behavior. The action situations that were identified in this research encompass Waste Prevention, Waste Disposal, Waste Treatment, Sustainability Understanding and Best-Before Date. The action situations were defined according to the waste hierarchy of German Law and the findings of the institutional network analysis.
Next to the institutional network analysis, a descriptive analysis helps identifying patterns from the collected data, which in turn helps embedding the results of the network analysis into a broader context. The descriptive analysis takes into account all gathered data that cannot be used for the institutional network analysis, but which can still provide important insights into the problem. Last, another more descriptive section provides an overview about the current German food waste management system, to be able to understand later on which parts would need improvement.
The main finding of this study is that opposing expectations about how to effectively reduce food waste by the different actors mirror a general awareness on food waste in Cologne, but also reveal a lack of rules and norms in the area of food waste management. Moreover, the combined results of the network analysis and the general observations show that institutional misalignments among expectations are often not resolved through actor’s engaging in trying to prevent food waste. The actors in contrast are remaining rather inactive and seemingly hope that the government finds solutions for their expectations. To remove the barriers to improve the food waste management in Cologne even further, nine policy recommendations were formulated. The recommendations are based on the findings of this study, but are also subject to limitations, which could not have been further investigated in this thesis.
One of the main takes aways of this study is that seemingly more orientation and clearer rules are needed for many actors, which have to come from the government. Only providing information events and education is not enough to reduce food waste, but clear regulations for customers and retail are needed. This can be achieved through providing clearer framework conditions for all actors could lead to the development of societal norms and a common understanding of food waste as a pressing issue and resolve the differing expectations. Further research should therefore focus on further solutions for removing the misalignments of the actors.
Key Words: Food Waste, Waste Prevention, Waste Treatment, Waste Disposal, Institutional Network Analysis, Institutional Interdependencies, Cologne, Differing Expectations