Where Does Food Waste Go?
Introduction – Food Waste in the UAE
Food waste is a growing problem in the United Arab Emirates. The tiny kingdom in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula has one of the world’s largest and most popular tourism, retail, and hospitality industries.
With over 21,000 restaurants, hundreds of well-stocked supermarkets and hypermarkets, and other venues selling food and drinks, it’s no surprise that the UAE deals with tons of food waste daily. Plus, there are over 230,000 homes that discard leftovers, rotten vegetables, and other unconsumed items.
According to the UAE Food Bank, the average person in the UAE produces nearly 2.7 kilograms of food waste a day, nearly two times the amount produced by Europeans.
But where does food waste go?
Unfortunately, most UAE locals are unaware of what happens to the food that ends up in their garbage disposal. Recapp, one of the UAE's leading food waste recycling companies, aims to shed some light on this intriguing topic.
Hopefully, with this information, readers can make better decisions regarding their food purchase, consumption, and disposal to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
Types of Food Waste
To understand where food waste ends up, we first need to talk about the different types of waste generated during a particular product’s lifecycle:
1. Production Waste
Food production typically occurs in farms and factories. This process is prone to different types of issues that can lead to waste, including:
- Natural disasters
- Pest infestation
- Man-made errors in production
- Poor management, etc.
2. Processing Food Waste
Food processing is a complex process that results in a huge variety of low-quality minuscule products, including:
- Vegetable peels
- Other parts, etc.
3. Distribution Food Waste
A huge percentage of food waste is generated due to improper or inefficient handling during packing, loading, transit, unloading, and stocking. This form of waste typically occurs in the commercial sector, which includes restaurants, supermarkets, and other food retail outlets with complex supply chains.
4. Consumer Food Waste
Finally, consumer food waste occurs during purchase, preparation, and consumption by people at home or different types of eateries. During preparation and following consumption, inedible, defective, or leftover food portions are removed and disposed of in different ways that we’ll discuss in the next section.
Where Does Food Waste Go in the End ?
Food waste has more than one final destination, as residents and businesses dispose of waste in different ways. Here are some of the most popular destinations:
A significant amount of food scraps/waste, including vegetable peels, meat trimmings, and liquids, is flushed down kitchen drains. The waste then ends up in sewer systems that aren’t conventionally designed for this purpose. As a result, thousands of residents and businesses experience plumbing disasters every year.
Similarly, sewage treatment plants consume more energy and resources to break down solid and liquid food waste.
Landfills are the most popular destination for food waste in the UAE, as most of our everyday trash ends up in them. The kingdom has six landfill sites covering nearly 1.6 million square meters. Today, nearly 50 million tons of food end up in landfills worldwide yearly, making up a whopping 21% of total capacity.
Plus, food waste is either left to rot and decompose or is incinerated. Unfortunately, both processes result in greenhouse emissions (methane, carbon dioxide, etc.), leading to climate change and environmental degradation.
3. Recycling Plants
Like most developed countries, the UAE has been relatively proactive in food waste management by spreading awareness and imposing strict measures and policies in place to curb the practice. More importantly, there’s been a gradual increase in the number of recycling plants in the kingdom to displace some of the landfill volumes.
In this case, the food waste collected by companies is transported to facilities equipped with automated machines and human resources for separation. Next, the waste is converted into bio-fertilizer to be used on farms or biogas to serve as fuel.
In recent years, there’s been more awareness about waste, climate change, and environmental degradation. As a result, many residents and businesses are stepping up to recycle food waste through composting.
This process involves the decaying and decomposition of organic matter under controlled aerobic conditions with the aid of bacteria, algae, fungi, and other microorganisms. The final product (compost) can then be used as fertilizer, or growing media for plants.
Where does food waste go? Now you know. However, understanding what happens to discarded food isn’t enough anymore. Locals and businesses need to step up and adopt sustainable practices to minimize this form of waste and its consequences.
Food security will be a serious problem in the next few decades. Therefore, we cannot afford not to utilize our produce and food products to their full potential.
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.