Food worth nearly Dhs10 billion is wasted annually despite remedial governmental steps - GulfToday

Food worth nearly Dhs10 billion is wasted annually despite remedial governmental steps

Time to rethink our relationship to waste and land use

The issue of food waste has become one of the top concerns due to its negative environmental, social and economic repercussions.

Somaiya Saad & Mohammed Al Mahi

Can you imagine how much food is wasted a year in the country?! It is as huge as a mountain. Therefore, the issue of food waste has become one of the state’s top concerns due to its negative environmental, social and economic repercussions. The government is making great efforts to find innovative and effective solutions to reduce the quantities of food wasted. This is because the value of food waste in the country touches over Dhs10 billion annually. And according to the latest official data and statistics, one person wastes an average amount of 179 kilograms of food a year.

Absence of societal awareness of optimal food consumption is the biggest reason behind the waste. Thus, minimizing the loss begins with raising awareness and following a positive life style, in addition to instilling the values of optimal consumption.

The country seeks to reduce food waste by 15 per cent by end of this year in line with its strategy of food security. This strategy is based on improving the community’s food consumption style and involving the society in the food security system because it plays an effective role — which is following healthy styles, refraining from food waste and purchasing extra amounts of food.

Despite the pandemic, the UAE efficiently overcame the challenge of securing food supplies for its population and succeeded in maintaining an abundance of foodstuffs in all outlets with no change in their prices. However, this did not stop the discussion around consumer habits in the society and the need to follow wise behaviours based on the rationalization of spending and consumption.

We need to find a radical solution towards rationalizing food consumption, especially during the current circumstances facing the world in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The hospitality sector is one of the key culprits with respect to food waste in the country. Therefore, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is working with Winnow Company to encourage companies operating in the hospitality sector in reducing food waste. The AI-supported-device “Vision” of Winnow helps reduce food waste in hotels and restaurants by estimating the amount and type of food that ends up in their garbage boxes. The device through images and metrics is able to estimate the cost of wasted food.

This allows those who work in food establishments to better control the food based on the approximate amount that suffices a person. The state was able to reach its goal of saving one million meals during the first year of using that device in 2018.

In 2019, two million meals were saved, and three million were saved in 2020. The device has helped save more than $ 1.6 million annually for the hotels.

“The UAE is striving to expand innovation in the modern technology applications, especially AI techniques to achieve the sustainable development goals and enhance its competitiveness and global leadership,” Mohammed Al Dhanhani, Director of Health and Agricultural Development Department at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment said.

He explained that the expansion in the use and employment of these technologies depends on an integrated system of work and the cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Excessive spending on food that leads to wasting tons of food which ends up in landfills every year poses a serious threat to the health of our ecosystem.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment encourages people in the UAE to refrain from food waste by spread the awareness among them, so that the future generations will enjoy a more prosperous future.

Food expert Bashir Hassan agrees with the above, and sai: “Among the most important reasons that lead to food waste is the failure to keep up with nutritional standards to best practices in this field which means that some foods may not meet these specifications. Therefore, these specifications need to be reviewed continuously to accommodate scientific developments in the field of food technology.”

He continued, “The improper and unreasonable application of food standards by some supervisory authorities around the world leads to decline of food shipments and their destruction on the ground that they are neither safe nor fit for human consumption. Moreover, the non-compliance by food retail establishments with the health conditions such as proper food preservation, proper transportation may expose food to contamination, which leads to the decline of their shipments as it is unfit for human consumption.”

In many cultures, food waste is inconsistent with ethical standards. Nevertheless, the latest reports of the Abu Dhabi Waste Management Centre “Tadweer” have shown that the amount of food waste, which was collected from the Emirate of Abu Dhabi from January to September 2020, amounted to 499,654.17 tons, a decrease of 1.68 per cent compared to 2019. Tadweer has taken several steps to reduce the food waste among of which is an organic waste treatment centre in Abu Dhabi, which in turn recycles the organic waste into organic fertilizer for agricultural production. Establishment of the center is underway and will be in operation during the coming period. Food wastage consists of 40 per cent of the total waste in the UAE, according Danfoss report.

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