Food waste has an impact on climate change in the region, warn UN officials

Campaign asks hotels to be 'change agents' by improving practices

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High levels of food waste in the Middle East are linked directly to climate change, leading UN officials said at an event in Dubai on Thursday.

They said hospitality industry staff can act as “agents of change” in inspiring a change of behaviour.

“Recent estimates indicate that the average per capita food waste in the UAE is 2.7 kilos per day. And this is a staggering amount as it is among the world's highest,” Dena Assaf, UN resident co-ordinator for the UAE, said at the event at Atlantis, The Palm.

“Therefore, addressing this food waste is central for our efforts to achieve national food security in the UAE and to progress on SDG target 12.3 [to reduce food waste].

In West Asian countries, the per capita food waste is estimated to be at 110 kilograms every year
Sami Dimassi, UNEP representative

“As we prepare to host Cop 28 next year, it is vital to understand how food loss, and waste, and climate change are interlinked. When food is wasted, all the energy resources and money that went into producing, processing, packaging and transporting it, are also wasted. Therefore reducing food waste is an impactful response to climate change.”

Ms Assaf was speaking at a UN Environment Programme event in Dubai. It aimed to encourage a reduction in food waste and was held on the third International Day for Awareness of Food Waste and Loss. This is observed on September 29 worldwide.

This year, to raise awareness about the detrimental effect of food waste on the environment, the UNEP regional office has launched the second phase of the ‘Recipe of Change’ campaign by asking the domestic hospitality industry to take part. The first phase aimed to influence domestic households. Ten chefs from the West Asia region took part, teaching people sustainable ways of cooking and storing food.

The slogan of the campaign “Stop Food Waste! For the people” aims to throw the spotlight on food waste and its impact on the environment.

“In this regard, the contributions of the tourism and hospitality sector is vital,” Ms Assaf said.

Speaking to The National on the sidelines of the event, Sami Dimassi, UNEP representative and regional director for West Asia, said the second phase of the “Recipe of Change” campaign aimed to inspire behavioural change in people through the hospitality industry.

“People in the region think that unless you see a humungous amount of food on the table, it is not good (hospitality). That attitude has to change,” he added.

“In West Asian countries, the per capita food waste is estimated to be at 110 kilograms every year. That is a lot. That is a big red signal and we need to pay attention. We need to let the people know that they are actually wasting that much every year.

“There was a time when people was hesitant to pack leftovers after eating out. Now it is a trend. Ordering smaller portions and not wasting should also become a trend. That is what we are aiming at.”

Dimassi said small measures like having a bag in the room and a note asking people to pack the leftover fruits can reduce food waste.

“It is the small steps that make the big difference. At the end of the day, no single person or entity can bring about a change. It has to be a collective effort.”

At the event held at Atlantis, The Palm, leading hotel chains took a pledge of action to reduce food waste in their restaurants.

Updated: October 03, 2022, 8:29 AM