We throw out a lot of food in the U.S.—an estimated 30 to 40 percent of our supply. To prevent uneaten meals from ending up in landfills, some choose to dispose of scraps by composting them. However, as Co.Exist reports, this well-meaning approach can backfire: According to a new study led by researchers at Ohio State University, diners who know their leftovers will be turned into fertilizer don’t try as hard to reduce their food waste during a meal.
Led by Brian Roe, an agricultural, environmental, and developmental economics professor, and OSU graduate student Danyi Qi, the experiment observed 266 participants as they ate a self-serve meal of sandwiches, chips, and apple slices. They were allowed to take as much food as they wanted, but they weren’t allowed to share meals or save any leftovers. At the meal’s end, researchers weighed diners’ trays to measure how much food they left behind.
Before the meal, subjects were given some reading material, either educational pamphlets about the environmental harm of food waste (this made up the “educated” group) or information about financial literacy (the “uneducated” group). However, around half of the participants in both groups were informed that their waste would be composted, while the rest were told it would end up in a landfill.
Diners who didn’t…