June 2024

Sustainable Insights

Tackling Food Waste in the UAE:

A Nationwide Commitment to Sustainable Consumption

The majority of people in the UAE are ordering takeaway meals several times a week, creating a significant problem with food waste, a survey has revealed. Most people, 57 percent, admitted to ordering takeaways more than once a week, according to the study, *How the UAE Eats: National Household Food Waste Survey 2023*. About 40 percent of those who participated in the survey said they often overordered.

Source: Compost from leftover food, asian young housekeeper/shutterstock.com

Food waste is costing us a lot of money. Each year, AED 13 billion worth of food is wasted, the same as AED 1,400 per person, which will make you think twice before loading up your plate with more food. It is also very harmful to the environment. The carbon footprint of wasted food in the UAE is equivalent to that of around 1,000,000 cars – over a third of the number of cars in the entire country.

This survey, involving over 6,000 respondents, was compiled by the National Food Loss and Waste Initiative, Ne’ma, and the Behavioural Science Group. It was unveiled at COP28, emphasizing the urgency of addressing food waste in the UAE. In response, the UAE has announced an ambitious nationwide action plan to cut food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

Nationwide Action Plan

In response to this issue, the UAE has launched an ambitious nationwide action plan to cut food waste by 50% by 2030. The plan, detailed in the Ne’ma Food Loss and Waste Reduction Roadmap, was presented by H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment and COP28 Food Systems Lead. This comprehensive strategy aims to:

  • Shift public attitudes towards food loss.
  • Develop sustainable practices across various sectors.

High-Level Panel Discussions and Public Mobilization

The announcement came during the fourth National Dialogue on Food Security, organized by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment with Ne’ma. The event featured high-level panel discussions that underlined the importance of a shared understanding of food loss and waste in achieving food security, sustainable consumption, and circular ecosystems while mitigating climate risks. The discussions focused on identifying challenges and solutions, mapping hotspots of food loss and waste, addressing systemic gaps, and sharing best practices. There was a strong emphasis on mobilizing the public and private sectors, as well as the wider community, to change current consumption habits.

Source: Two diverse young adult lecturers are in a conference room/shutterstock.com

Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships

Public-Private Partnerships

As part of mobilizing national leadership, agreements were signed with major hotel groups such as Jumeirah, Hilton, and Rotana to prioritize food loss and waste reduction. These partnerships are a testament to the commitment of various stakeholders to tackling food waste collectively.

Sustainable Catering Strategy

At COP28, the UAE introduced a Sustainable Catering Strategy aimed at demonstrating the potential of delivering sustainable food at scale. This initiative is part of the broader H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment and COP28 Food Systems Lead which focuses on transforming global food systems and ensuring their long-term sustainability.

Innovative Solutions to Combat Food Waste

The Waste Lab UAE

Founded by Ceylan Uren and Lara Hussein, The Waste Lab UAE is an impact-driven startup that creates sustainable solutions to food waste. The Waste Lab helps design on-site and off-site composting solutions for restaurants, hotels, schools, communities, and events. They turn food waste into compost, which is then distributed to local farmers, promoting a circular economy.

Emirates Bio Farm

Emirates Bio Farm, which has been operational since the early 1980s, has become a leading exporter of organic fertilizer and fresh produce in the UAE. They utilize local plant and animal waste to create organic fertilizers, enabling farming even in harsh desert conditions. The farm also engages in agritourism, educating the public about sustainable agriculture and the importance of reducing food waste.

AI Solutions by Winnow

London-based startup Winnow Solutions uses artificial intelligence to scan and identify excess food waste. Their AI systems have been implemented in the UAE, claiming to reduce food waste by up to 70 percent in the first year of use.

Redistribution via BonApp

Tech company BonApp works with 150 food providers to redistribute excess food through their app. This initiative helps reduce food waste by connecting food providers with consumers, who can purchase surplus food at a discounted rate.

Source: Mix of Expired Vegetables in a huge container/shutterstock.com

Community and Awareness Campaigns

Ne’ma Awareness Campaigns

Ne’ma runs awareness campaigns to encourage responsible consumption and food waste reduction across the food chain. These campaigns aim to foster new social norms and scale best practices nationwide.

UAE Food Bank

Launched in 2017, the UAE Food Bank helps feed those in need while reducing food waste. It redistributes surplus food from homes, eateries, and large events to low-income communities.

Sustainable Practices in Hospitality

Zero Waste Initiatives

The Cove Rotana Hotel in Ras Al Khaimah exemplifies sustainable practices by composting food waste and using it to fertilize hotel grounds. The Region’s First Commercial Scale Waste to Energy Plant in Sharjah, a joint venture between Bee’ah and Masdar, converts waste into energy, further supporting the UAE’s sustainability goals.

Sustainable Efforts Continue

Reducing food waste is a crucial component of achieving food security and sustainability in the UAE. Through comprehensive strategies, innovative solutions, and public-private partnerships, the UAE aims to halve food waste by 2030. These efforts, showcased at COP28, highlight the nation’s commitment to fostering a sustainable future where no food is wasted, contributing to global food security and environmental sustainability.

Impact and Future Goals

The UAE’s efforts to reduce food waste align with global sustainability goals, emphasizing the critical role of food systems in addressing climate change. The initiatives showcased at COP28 highlight the country’s commitment to fostering a sustainable future. Through collective action, innovative solutions, and strategic policies, the UAE aims to become a nation where no food is wasted, contributing to global food security and environmental sustainability.

Source: Composting of kitchen waste/shutterstock.com