CHRISTMAS and New Year festivities mean over-thetop food selection – elaborate and opulent displays at buffets, brunches, luncheons and dinners. Food wastage is one of the most critical problems the UAE faces, especially during festivities like Christmas, New Year, Ramadan, Diwali not to forget the wedding season. The demand for food during these times increases by almost 50 pc; sadly, almost one-third of this ends up as waste.
When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, package and transport it. According to Dubai Carbon, the decomposition process of food waste emits methane gas, which is reportedly 25 times more damaging than CO2. Food wastage is generated across the different stages of the food value-chain, including transportation, either by air, land or sea, as well as packaging.
Packaging materials are the first to consume virgin resources that often are only applied for aesthetic purposes and may not be recycled.
Methane emissions from landfills represent the largest source of GHG emissions from the entire waste sector, contributing around 700 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
The statistics are alarming! Each of us needs to take responsibility to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Often we prioritise convenience over effort i.e. being lazy! Survey reveals that most people have food delivered home more than once a week and order too much in restaurants.
The booming food takeaway industry has long been guilty of unsustainable practices with food packaging, employing wasteful practices when serving/delivering food to customers.
The most wasteful practice with food packaging is that the brands selling food offer or include items people don’t use. Whether wrapping food in foil, offering paper packets or plastic utensils, or putting the takeaway food containers in plastic bags, food packaging involves a lot of products that customers will instantly dispose of post-delivery.
Food amounts to 40 per cent of the average household bin. There are many options to better manage excess food. Food waste generally occurs because of a lack of awareness, damaging social norms, laziness and wasteful behavior.
Among the various solutions to reduce waste, some are: plan meals ahead use shopping lists to avoid impulse buys; buy only the required quantities and buy local; share leftover food – deliver excess food to the less fortunate people; select products that do not have an extra layer of packaging; and compost food waste – home composting can potentially divert up to 150 kg of food waste per household per year!
Currently, only 20 per cent of fruits and vegetables consumed in the UAE are grown locally; the rest are imported from around the world.
These fresh fruits and vegetables grown around the world are stored for days and have lengthy transport time before they reach UAE supermarket shelves. This means reduced freshness and a higher carbon footprint.
Choosing to buy vegetables grown in the UAE supports local farmers and the local economy, provides food security, and contributes to a lower carbon footprint. The UAE Government has implemented several policies to support farmers and agricultural production, including investing in modern agriculture technologies, promoting local farming, and reducing water consumption in agriculture. Additionally, the UAE has established partnerships with other countries to exchange knowledge and expertise in the field of agriculture. These efforts have led to a significant increase in local food production.
Having entered 2024, let’s all become more aware, of our habits and attitudes. Let us revisit our food habits, rethink our attitudes, and recycle, reuse and regenerate.