Food wastage raises moral concerns

 

Food wastage raises moral concerns
Tadweer's initial approach was to spread awareness among children about minimising waste generation and recycling the generated waste.

Fatima Al Hamroudi, Public awareness officer at Centre of Waste Management - Abu Dhabi, elaborates the centre's efforts to spread the message of proper waste management.

by

Silvia Radan

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Published: Sat 25 Jun 2016, 7:31 PM

Last updated: Sat 25 Jun 2016, 9:41 PM

Throughout the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, per capita waste generation stands at 1.78kg daily, of which 30 to 50 per cent is food waste.
Though the quantity is going down, as a result of continuous awareness drives run the Centre of Waste Management - Abu Dhabi (Tadweer) for years, still the number is perturbing.
To start with, waste is very bad for the environment - plastic takes hundreds of years to disintegrate, releasing toxic gases as they do, food waste produces the highly polluting Methane gas and those blown from containers by the wind end up eaten by animals, who cannot digest them and cause a slow, painful death.
With 21,000 people dying of hunger every day, according to the United Nations, food waste poses moral concerns, not to mention a looming food crises caused by climate change effects, coupled with increase in world population.
Ever since she took the position of public awareness officer at Tadweer in 2013, Fatima Al Hamroudi dedicated her work and often free time to get people understand waste is bad. She found that lectures, seminars and leaflets alone don't work.
"You have to talk to people from the heart, and you have to talk to them through their children," Al Hamroudi believes it and initiated a campaign for school children in 2014, named "Less waste. More Beautiful Emirate". In an interview with Khaleej Times, Al Hamroudi explains all about it.
Catching'em young
"Before we started the campaign, we picked at random three schools from Abu Dhabi, three from Al Ain and three from Al Gharbia and did a survey about waste management. The results were shocking.
"When we talked to students, they didn't know the difference between green and black rubbish bins. We went to teachers and school administration staff and asked them about recycling and waste segregation, and they were also ignorant about all these things.
"This was very surprising. We are talking about 2013! I realised I have to work very hard, especially since we were only three people working on this awareness project."
For the following months, Al Hamroudi travelled across the world, from Japan to Germany and Canada, to study how others run waste awareness campaigns.
In the previous years, Tadweer would only run lectures for school children, barely gathering 30 students in each school. This was not enough and it didn't work. Students would easily become bored and their attention was shifting.
After her world tour in 2013, Al Hamroudi set up a new plan for school students.
"In 2014, we visited about 10 per cent of the schools in the emirate and talked to them about waste and recycling, but made it fun with interactive games, workshops and competitions. This was the beginning of the campaign," she said.
"The following year, we went to the same number of schools, but asked them to invite other schools to join them, so we reach out to more students and teachers.
"Today if you go to schools, you will find a big difference. We deal with 400 plus schools and, of course, it's not easy to reach them all through visits. So I keep in touch with the students through e-mail, phone calls and social media. I talk to them from 8am until 10pm. I never tell students 'excuse me, I'm at home now, or in a party'; I always answer everybody - students, teachers or managers of schools."
What Al Hamroudi and her team want from schools is to minimise waste, to recycle and to eliminate food waste. According to her, in less than three years, the campaign is already making a big impact.
All schools now have recycling bins in classrooms and waste bins in the canteen, and teachers have been asked not to allow students to eat in classrooms any longer, only in the canteen, so the food waste and recycling are controlled better.
Pupils also understood they don't have to buy more than what they can eat. Just a small sandwich is enough and if they are still hungry they can buy another one.
"We also told them 'ya habibi, if you have big sandwich and you know you can't eat it all, share it with your friend; this way you won't waste money and you won't create waste. Now they understand that better than their parents," mentioned Al Hamroudi.
Now, she is asking students to take the waste management campaign to home, to talk to their parents about not throwing food away by simply controlling buying and cooking food.
So far, it works. Adults tend to listen to their children better than to Tadweer directly.
Understanding hunger
"To convince people to reduce waste, you must know how to talk to them. If you tell them directly it's not good for the environment, they would not listen. You must talk to them in different languages. One language is religion (in Islam it is forbidden to waste food), another language is world hunger and the third language is environment," said Al Hamroudi.
"Also the labourers here... How much is their salary? Maybe Dh1,000 and some of them Dh800. It's not enough for them to buy breakfast, lunch and dinner. I went to labour accommodations and saw what they eat. It's very little food.
Once she took some of the students with her and let the students talk to the labourers who explained to the children: "Yes, at lunch, we have white rice and a little sauce with potatoes'. The students were surprised - no meat? no chicken?
"This is how you catch their hearts. After visits like these their behaviour change and we see the results in food wastage".
Tadweer also runs awareness campaigns for adults. Distributing leaflets from door to door didn't give any results in the past, so now it goes to malls, events, companies and talks to people interactively, showing them how to reduce waste and recycle.
"We tell them about companies that come and collect recycled material, so they can make money from recycling. One government company sold its recycled waste in 2015 for Dh150,000," pointed out Al Hamroudi.
For now, Tadweer's mission is to get everyone understand why is it important to reduce waste. Once that is done, laws and fines will be enforced.
silvia@khaleejtimes.com


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