How Does Food Waste Affect the Environment?
Introduction – Food Waste in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates is home to thousands of eateries, supermarkets, hotels, and other businesses selling food and drinks. Moreover, it has a population of nearly 10.3 million people that is rapidly expanding. It also hosts nearly 10 million international visitors looking to explore the Arabian Peninsula’s most popular destination for tourism, retail, and hospitality.
With these stats, it’s no surprise that the Kingdom generates incredible food waste at every touchpoint in its lifecycle (production, distribution, and consumption).
It could be leftovers from a top restaurant in Dubai, expired products in supermarket inventories, or vegetable scraps tossed down the garbage drain from a Sharjah apartment. In this way, food wastage is becoming a massive environmental problem.
You’re probably pondering the question, “How does food waste affect the environment? Isn’t it a food security problem?”
Yes, food waste is a food security problem since we live in a world where people die from hunger. Most people are aware of this consequence. RECAPP aims to go beyond this and share the environmental consequences of food waste.
Hopefully, this information will incentivize more people to make better decisions when it comes to food production, distribution, storage, and consumption.
The Link Between Food Waste and Environmental Degradation
While most people understand the socio-economic impact of food waste, only a few are aware of its environmental impact. Apart from exacerbating food insecurity, this form of waste also leaves a massive carbon footprint.
Simply put, food production is a laborious agricultural and industrial process that requires massive amounts of land, energy, and natural resources. Hence, when we throw food away, we’re also tossing away the precious limited resources and other variables that went into producing it.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food waste is responsible for nearly 33% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, reducing food wastage is a necessary endeavor everyone, including consumers, businesses, and governments, must take on to save the planet and maximize sustainability.
3 Ways Food Waste Affects the Environment
1. Waste of Natural Resources
Food waste affects the environment in several ways. For starters, it wastes all the resources that went into producing it, including water, fertilizer, chemicals, land, labor, energy, food for livestock, etc. According to the United Nations, nearly 70% of the earth’s freshwater is used for agricultural processes.
Considering that the UAE is one of the world’s hottest and driest countries with severe water shortages, wasting food is nothing short of a crime against future generations. For instance, throwing away just one kilogram of bad mutton is equivalent to the thousands of liters of water the sheep consumed during their lifespan.
2. Global Warming and Climate Change
When wasted food ends up in landfills and decomposes over time, it releases methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, into the upper atmosphere to trap heat from the sun. These gases warm up the planet and result in global warming.
The key consequence of global warming is right in front of us – climate change. Whether it's flash floods, severe storms, heat waves, or other weather anomalies, people are no longer strangers to inclement weather damaging the ecosystem and disrupting our lives.
While the UAE is far behind compared to China, India, or the US regarding food waste-based greenhouse emissions, the amount produced by each resident or business in the country is staggering.
The UAE can save millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other gases by avoiding throwing food away.
3. Land Pollution and Degradation
Food waste doesn’t only include scraps and leftovers. It also includes the packaging it comes in, such as paper bags, plastic containers, shopping bags, etc. Food packaging is one of the biggest contributors to land pollution in the modern economy.
While many modern consumers and businesses have limited their purchases or switched to eco-friendly packaging, most people continue to adhere to traditional practices. As a result, more plastic and other forms of waste end up in landfills and oceans yearly, resulting in environmental degradation.
However, dumping food waste in landfills and other places is just one form of land degradation. The other occurs much earlier in the process.
Agriculture uses millions of hectares of arable and non-arable land for crop and livestock production. Both processes degrade the natural land by disrupting its ability to yield the same amount of products over time, killing its natural beauty with man-made structures, and harming biodiversity by enabling rapid habitat inundation.
How does food waste affect the environment? Now you know. However, knowing isn’t enough. We must step up and take responsibility for the environment by adopting sustainable practices in every aspect of our lives. Preventing food wastage is one of the best ways to do that, especially from a consumer’s viewpoint.
Moreover, for your food containers or other recyclables RECAPP can help you to dispose of it safely and adequately for a sustainable future in the UAE by providing relevant services. You can start now by downloading the app and recycle at home but also at your office with the RECAPP Business solution.