The best way for a regional government to reduce food waste is to set goals. Previous and common efforts focus on messaging and even in increasing the cost of managing food waste for households. New research shows that simply setting food waste reduction goals is enough and even better than other approaches.
This study investigates the effects of food waste (FW) reduction goal setting on waste generation. Using a unique dataset on the status of policy response with goals for household food waste reduction across Japanese municipalities, we estimate the causal effect of setting FW reduction goals in the public plan on household waste output. The results indicate that goal setting reduces waste output by 3.38 kg per capita per year, resulting in a reduction in economic loss due to the discarding of food of approximately US$ 689 million per year. Moreover, we find that goal setting has a larger influence than other waste reducing and recycling policies that do not include reduction goals, such as collection frequency and unit-based pricing systems. Our results highlight the importance of goal setting by local authorities in designing environmental policies for common social goals.