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How is the UAE tackling its food waste problem?

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How is the UAE tackling its food waste problem?
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Nursery school children in the United Arab Emirates are learning early about the importance of recycling leftover food.

Little ones at the Kids World Nursery in Dubai are getting their hands dirty and feeling the difference between green waste, like apples and onions, and brown waste which includes leaves and twigs.

UAE children learn about composting

After 45 days, using worms to create compost from food waste, the children use the enriched material to nourish plants in the nursery’s garden. Once fertilized, the cycle starts again.

Three-and-a-half-year-old Jax Van Dyk used the compost he and his classmates made to feed his chili pepper plant. During the process, he learned an important lesson.

“Compost makes soil and soil makes plants grow,” he proudly states.

Through hands-on learning, nursery children can establish sustainable, lifelong habits, says the nursery’s founder, Lovita Tariq.

An important question for the kids is, ‘Why do we recycle?’

“We tell them what will happen if we don’t do these things, whilst showing them small videos on what’s going to happen if the world becomes hotter - how the animals are going to have problems,” she explains.

UAE children learn about composting

THE AI ANSWER TO FOOD WASTE

Food waste costs the UAE an estimated 3.5 billion dollars (3.1 billion Euros) per year according to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.

By 2030, the country is pledging to slash food waste in half. A national milestone came in 2018, when the UAE was able to conserve the equivalent of more than one million meals.

Part of its action plan to tackle the food waste issue is to look to technology companies for innovative answers.

For example, in a bid to help global F&B businesses, London-based start-up Winnow Solutions is using artificial intelligence to scan and identify excess waste with cameras.

An AI solution to food waste, scans and identifies excess waste with cameras

This can, they say, prevent up to 70 percent of food waste in the first year of use.

Key contributors to the Middle East region’s food waste problem are large buffet-style dining operations and a culture of generous hospitality, says Ignacio Ramirez, the company’s MENA director.

“In this region, culturally speaking, people want their guest to always have enough, but it doesn’t mean they want to produce too much,” he explains, adding that most food wasted globally is thrown out before it reaches people’s plates.

Ignacio Ramirez speaks to Euronews’ Salim Essaid

WASTE, LANDFILLS & GLOBAL WARMING

More than one-third of the world’s food, amounting to around a billion tons, has been wasted yearly since 2011, according to the United Nations.

In landfills, wasted food produces nearly 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gasses, affecting global warming.

Excess food waste produces 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gasses

The World Wildlife Fund attributes food waste as the main cause of deforestation and the loss of water sources worldwide due to rising food demand and consumption, and also the conversion of forests to farmland and ranch land.

Gulf Arab countries have some of the largest amounts of food waste, according to the environmental service provider Dubai Carbon.

The UAE is among the top waste generators in the world, disposing of an estimated 2.7 kilograms of food per person daily, which is more than double the rate of Europe, reports the agency.

SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA: SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

The REEM Program in Bahrain wishes to inspire “little environmental leaders,” sharing this post of a tree planting workshop for children.

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