Food Waste – A Global Challenge to Sustainability

Acting on the food wastage, can be considered to be having a significant impact on achieving the sustainability goals and can also be a vital auxiliary measure to counteract the imbalance in the global food availability and distribution. This paper tries to summarize from the available data, the global, the national and the community level food wastage scenarios. With a focus on the food wastage due to ‘over consumption’ as one of the high potential source for reduction and the behavioral aspects and habits as obstacles to the goal of sustainability, describes a study conducted by students in a local community to identify and quantify the avoidable food waste at consumer level and proposes that awareness of sustainable living patterns as a superordinate goal.

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There are not many research/ scholarly publications available on food waste in UAE. However, the available literature on this topic in the form of reports and articles published by newspapers is utilized to comprehend the UAE food waste scenario. According to the 2014 statistics from The National, Massar Solutions and the UN about 3.27 million tonnes of food is wasted every year equivalent to 350 kg per person. In Abu Dhabi, 39 percent of the municipal waste generated (about 400,000 tonnes each year) is leftover food discarded by residents/ households, whereas Dubai Municipality’s estimates nearly 38 percent of food is wasted every day, which goes up to 55 percent during Ramadan. In 2016, the municipality recorded 27 per cent of waste produced in Dubai as organic food, consisting mainly of 88.8 per cent food.

Cutting food waste by 15% would have the same impact on carbon dioxide emissions as taking 150,000 cars off the road. According to a survey done in 2012 by YouGov, an international internet-based market research firm, 78 percent of respondents in the UAE admitted that they throw away food each week. Nearly 65 percent believed their food waste had no or little consequence on the environment. 67% believe more awareness and educational campaigns will reduce food wastage. [2]

Food waste is increasingly a matter of national and international concern. Code Shoppy To highlight a few, in the USA, programs such as the Food Waste Reduction Alliance and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge seek to both reduce and recycle food waste and to re-distribute usable but about-to-be-discarded food to those who need it. The French Ministry of Agriculture, Food Industry, and Forestry recently launched a National Pact Against Food Waste, with the goal of reducing food waste in France by 50 percent by 2025.

In 2016 France became the first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food, punishing them with fines of up to €75,000 if they refused to donate it to food banks or charities instead. Great Britain’s “Love Food Hate Waste” program – which aims at establishing a “zero waste economy” – has reduced British food waste by 21 percent over the past five years [1,8]. In July 2016, The Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen approved the world’s first food loss and waste standard, which was thrashed out by a committee including the UN Environmental Program (UNEP), the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (UN FAO) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, thus resolving – the lack of internationally agreed norms for establishing the shape and nature of the problem. The standard sets criteria for defining, measuring and reporting the food waste problem which can be applied to countries and companies alike. codeshoppy.com This standard will set a baseline for action and measure how much food is not making it to our mouths [9].

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the food waste management policies launched and operative to combat the problem of food wastage are, way back in 2010 the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) had aimed to reduce the amount of hospitality waste going to landfills by 20% as a first step in its environmental program. Abu Dhabi’s Centre of Waste Management (CWM) implemented an initiative called the NADAFA Program (which means “cleanliness” in Arabic) to monitor and control all waste-related activities for the commercial, industrial, and construction sectors.

In the UAE, the Red Crescent Society (RCS) operates the “Hefth Al Ne’ma” program (which means “looking after blessings” in Arabic, 2012) as a result of which the public can call the Society and schedule a free pick up of untouched leftover food [10]. In December 2017, as a part of the outreach initiatives to engage the public, ‘My Environment, My National Responsibility’ exhibition organized by UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) campaigned on the need to adopt a sustainable lifestyle to preserve the planet for future generations.

The authorities also suggested that a community effort across the country is needed to show restraint when cooking up huge food presentations for home guests or customers. Along with the UAE Food Bank Dubai Municipality, is calling for “zero tolerance” towards food waste from consumers and the food industry as a major drive to tackle food waste. To come closer to the goal, the Dubai Municipality has recently teamed up with UK-based Winnow, a startup that provides smart meters in hotels that helps kitchens cut food waste in half by automatically measuring what’s put in the trash bin.

The collaboration is under the Dubai Future Accelerators program that allows the private sector to work closely with public entities to co-create breakthrough solutions for the public good. Dubai Municipality will soon launch a facility to recycle organic waste. Waste Management Department at Dubai Municipality, announced fees will apply on landfill gates for waste trucks of the private sector before the end of 2017. Sorted waste and recyclable items can cost up to four times less than mixed wastes [3].

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