project leader
Ursula K
(Downtown Brooklyn)
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Our First Data Dive

the project

This citizen science project will collect and analyze new data on New York City food retailers’ use of date labels and the effect labeling has on unpurchased, safe-to-eat products ending up in the solid waste stream. Through surveys of retailers and audits of food items destined for landfill, we aim to build a database researchers and citizen scientists can use to build discussion around food waste and ways of reducing it.

In addition to data collection and analysis, we will also engage interested members of the community, sustainability and anti-waste advocates, and researchers  in discussion of the data and preliminary findings, as well as ways of building on this pilot to conduct further research.


the steps

Development of data collection plan, including geographic scope, survey design, solid waste audit methods, and data coding and management methods

Target completion date: 01.15.2020

Identification of available storage media and back-up methods for digital media

Target completion date: 01.15.2020

Analytical study design

Target completion date: 01.15.2020

Survey administration and solid waste assessment

Target completion date: 03.15.2020

Quantitative analysis

Target completion date: 06.15.2020

Discussion of findings/educational outreach

Target completion date: 08.15.2020

why we're doing it

Food waste is a major concern in New York City and around the country. A lack of standardized date labels and the use of dates to denote product quality rather than product safety make it difficult to reduce food waste at the retail and consumer level. We want to understand what role food labels play in safe-to-consume food ending up in the garbage.


Disbursed Budget:

TOTAL RAISED = $1,417.00
ioby Platform Fee $35.00
ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%) $70.85
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $42.51

Original Budget:

Cloud storage of photo data. 500 GB lifetime storage on pCloud 175

Survey questionnaire forms: paper and printing 25

Data collection, cleaning, and research services
2 researchers @ 25 USD/ hr for 2.5 hrs/week  950

Solid waste assessment team outreach and recruitment. monthly subscription for project duration (6 months). 100

ioby Platform Fee $35
ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%) $70
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $42


Our First Data Dive

To study date labels and retail food waste, we have to go where the waste is. In New York City, it's easy to find: lying curbside in black plastic bags at the end of the business day. With no room on the streets for containers or Dumpsters, businesses simply toss bags to the curb for private waste haulers to collect. So in reality, there's not a lot of Dumpster diving we need to perform to open bags and collect our food label data. We do a lot of squatting though, which is great exercise!

Seven citizen scientists committed to reducing retail food waste joined me last week on our first food waste audit in Downtown Brooklyn. Armed with notebooks and a camera, we were able to completely remove and document one retailer's still-edible and untouched food products that ended up in the trash. Because we aim to create research-worthy data, we were meticulous in our efforts to completely scour the site for all edible and untouched products, regardless if they were buried in a mound of used paper towels or covered in goop.

After we completed our designated site audit, we decided to visit retailers we saw putting out boxes and bags full of unused food. Although not part of our study, we were able to save from the landfill dozens of bags of holiday-themed chocolates, popcorn tins, and other goodies. You can see here pictures of my haul for the night (including some non-food waste). Six others took home similar amounts of uneaten, perfectly good food. This is the scale of food waste in New York City. Ours was not a special night, this kind of senseless waste happens every day across the city. We hope to understand how to reduce it.

food originally destined for a landfill


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


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  • Regina W.
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  • Ashley Challinor
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