Dubai: Leftover food waste is expected to go up from 2.7kg per person daily to 4.5kg this Ramadan due to iftar and suhour gatherings, an official said on Sunday.
The excess is part of a national problem with the loss of food estimated at Dh4 billion a year, ranking the UAE as the fourth highest in the world per capita for throwing away its surplus food.
The spike in wet foods dumped in local landfills will be countered with both a no-food-waste campaign by Dubai Carbon as well as the UAE Food Bank project which will encourage residents to donate surplus foods at up to 100 food bank fridges across the country.
The UAE Food Bank project was announced in January by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to reduce food waste and help feed people in need in the country and abroad.
Dubai Carbon, meanwhile, will launch its campaign called “District Waste” in the days leading up to Ramadan later this month to help reduce food waste thrown away by families, eateries, hotels and food courts across the UAE.
Ivano Ianelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon, said a surge in decomposing foods in landfill creates 25 times more harmful greenhouse gas emissions than carbon monoxide.
“In the UAE, we produce 2.7kg per day per individual. That number goes up to 4.5kg during Ramadan,” Ianelli told Gulf News in an interview on Sunday.
Roughly 40 per cent of the waste going to landfills is attributed to organic food waste, he said.
Ianelli said for some, tradition dictates that grand buffets of food should be readily available at iftars and suhours as a way of showing their hospitality.
“Hospitality should not focus on overindulgence, there should be a shift to the perfect [amount of food],” he averred. “Having a meal where nothing is thrown away is a winning scenario … the message is that there is no reason to throw away food.”
Dubai Carbon is the agency working to slash the emirates emissions to below 2 degrees Celsius, a target set by the Conference of Parties (COP21) (Paris climate summit) and 196 countries — including the UAE — to limit global temperature increases in coming decades.
The campaign is part of the Dubai Carbon Abatement Strategy 2021, approved in December by the Dubai Executive Council, to stem greenhouse gases by 16 per cent by 2021.
During the launch of the first UAE Food Bank branch in April, Hussain Nasser Lootah, director general of Dubai Municipality, said food bank fridges would be set up in mosques, residential compounds and other public places this Ramadan.
“General public can donate surplus food through these fridges. They need to follow the food safety and hygiene guidelines … People passing by can take it if they need food,” he said.
Adel El Rahim Gador, principle food health inspection officer in charge of the Food Bank office in Al Quoz, said at the time that the Food Safety Department is likely to announce guidelines for residents to make sure of the safety of donated food.
“People have to be very careful about the safety of the food they donate. They should be honest and should not donate spoiled food.”
At the time of the opening, Mohammad Abdullah Alhaj Al Zarouni, manager of Emirates Red Crescent in Dubai told Gulf News the UAE stands fourth in terms of food wastage across the world.
“We are just behind Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the US. Every person is wasting 196kg of food every year,” he said, quoting international data.
Plan meals ahead with shopping lists to avoid impulse buys to reduce waste
Share leftover food with family, friends, neighbours or deliver excessive food to less fortunate people
Home composting can potentially divert up to 150kg of food waste per household per year from local collection authorities.
Source: Dubai Carbon
Dh4b — Yearly food wastage in the UAE
196kg — Yearly food wasted by each person
30 — Food Bank branches across the country
100 — Food Bank fridges across the country from Ramadan
Source: UAE Food Bank