Roskilde Festival: Students examine food waste

Tuesday 09 Jul 19
Food waste is a recurring theme at Roskilde Festival. Two teams of DTU students are working to determine the actual extent of the problem.

Roskilde Festival has been focusing on food waste for a number of years, and DTU students have continuously contributed to—for example—collection of data on food waste at the festival. This year, two groups are working on the assignment. One group is looking at food waste among festival-goers, the other is focusing on food waste at the food stalls.

In fact, there are still no exact data on the quantity of food waste at the festival, as food refuse is not sorted. Therefore, the festival wants insight into the extent of the food waste.

The festival has asked one of the groups to examine whether portion sizes are of importance to the quantity of food that people discard. They have visited the stalls Giant Burger, Halifax, Mega Pita, and Italian Street Treats, where they have weighed festival-goers’ food waste and—among other questions—asked them what they think of the portion sizes. The first data were collected from Giant Burger and Halifax, which are located at the camping site. The initial results show that 94 per cent of the festival-goers visiting the stalls did not have any food waste. They finished their meals.

“We found it strange that there wasn’t more food waste out in the camping area, and we even checked the bins to see if it there was a problem with our method. But our findings still indicate that people in the camping area pay attention to consuming all the calories they’ve paid for,” says Julie Kathrine Lyager from the group, who are all MSc students on the Environmental Engineering programme.

Friday was the turn of the festival site. Here, the students examined the stalls Italian Street Treats and MegaPita, and had another surprise: Now, 59 per cent of the festival-goers visiting these stalls discard food—an average of 90 g per portion. And 57 per cent find that the portions are too large. It is not yet clear what is the reason for the big difference between the camping area and the festival site—the final results will only be available after the festival has ended—but the group is itself guessing that it may be due to a difference in the clientele at the two sites.

Testing new monitoring system for the food stalls
The other group working with food waste has examined the implementation of a new monitoring system for food waste. Rub & Stub—an NGO combating food waste—has asked to have a new tool tested that has been developed by the enterprise E-smiley for collection of data on the quantity of wasted food. The study is conducted by daily weighing of food waste at selected food stalls. In addition, the volunteers’ experience of the system is examined to evaluate user-friendliness.

The group only studies the food which has been prepared and which could have been sold. This is—in fact—the food which Rub & Stub cannot donate to others. In other words, they have not looked at the cut-off ends of cucumbers or the spaghetti remnants scraped off the bottom of the pot, stresses Patricia Nicholson, who studies Design and Innovation. She is conducting the project with a fellow student from Environmental Engineering and another from Advanced Energy Solutions at Aalto University in Finland.

Patricia Nicholson says that they had asked the stalls about their own assessment of the extent of food waste before testing the equipment. The vast majority assessed that the quantities were very small. Even though the preliminary examinations show that the food waste of the stalls exceeded the stalls’ own assessment, it is still low:

“We’ve not quite finished processing our data yet, but it seems that the overall quantity is very small. The stalls have an incredible amount of knowledge about their customers and about special peak periods. And the individual stalls concentrate on very few dishes, which are prepared using very simple processes,” she says and adds:

"We also believe that it helps reduce food waste that the stalls are manned by many volunteers who are festival-goers themselves and who need to eat. They therefore avoid much waste by giving the surplus food to them before it has been left for too long.”

Insights from the project will be used to decide whether Roskilde Festival will implement the monitoring system right across the festival.

Facts about the Roskilde Festival/DTU collaboration

  • DTU and Roskilde Festival entered into a partnership in the spring of 2010.

  • The purpose of the partnership is for DTU students to do who voluntary, unpaid work on various projects that tackle a technical issue at Roskilde Festival.

  • In cooperation with a DTU supervisor, the students design a project related to one of the many technical challenges found at the Festival. They then use the festival week to both conduct theirs studies and present the project to festival-goers and other interested parties.

  • The project is worth five ECTS credits if the student follows up with a detailed technical report, which is marked by an the supervisor.

  • This means that for approximately 100 DTU students, Roskilde Festival will not just be about music and entertainment, but also about challenging their academic skills and trying out new ideas in practice.

  • Among other things, the collaboration has given the DTU students behind the start-ups Volt, DropBucket, Cutlab, PeeFence, and Allumen a platform for testing their technology before they started their enterprises.