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Innovations key to cutting food waste

Food waste per person, per year is 197kg in the UAE, compared with 95-115kg in Europe and North America.

Reuters file
Reuters file

By Simon Penney

Published: Mon 21 Feb 2022, 10:14 PM

The fact that substantial amounts of food are produced but not eaten has a negative impact on the environment. Food waste in landfills is broken down by bacteria which produces methane, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Around eight to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed. Food waste per person, per year is 197kg in the UAE, compared with 95-115kg in Europe and North America. Reducing food waste at retail, food service and household level can provide multiple benefits for both people and the planet.

The UK is making great strides in food waste reduction and redeployment using a variety of innovative methods. Food waste can be processed to generate energy using anaerobic digestion or it can be turned into animal feed. And now this expertise is being deployed in partnership with companies and governments across the Middle East.

The UK’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) has signed an MOU with Emirates Flight Catering in the UAE with a future ambition to build an operational facility in Dubai to use food waste from planes and waste from catering operations to grow insects industrially to turn into animal feed protein. Collaboration with partners in the UAE is central to a number of Fera’s strategic initiatives – specifically, the ambition to create an Agri-Food Innovation Venture Fund across the GCC region and the UK.

Meanwhile, UK company Winnow is helping the food service and hospitality industry in the UAE cut down on food waste by making the kitchen smarter. Several prominent hotels, including Hilton Jumeirah, Fairmont the Palm, Armani Hotel Dubai, and the Intercontinental Hotel in Fujairah are using Winnow’s artificial intelligence-enabled tool to detect the type and quantity of food items thrown away. The data allows commercial kitchens to track their food waste and make necessary changes to their food purchases and menus. The Winnow Vision system is saving the UAE’s hospitality industry around $2.7 million, in terms of food wastage costs.

We will soon see other new innovations hit the market both in the UK and here in the Middle East. Start-up company Entocycle is leading a collaboration that will build the UK’s first industrial-scale insect farm. Black soldier flies convert upcycled food waste from farms and factories into a sustainable, organic insect-based protein feed, as an alternative to soya, for farmed animals such as chicken and fish. In short, the company is using food waste to create insect protein to feed the animals that we eat, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation.

The industry is keen to partner with non-profit and the public sector to find solutions. UK-based global environmental charity WRAP works with governments, businesses and individuals to ensure that the world’s natural resources are sourced and used sustainably. WRAP experts have just completed a food waste reduction study in Kuwait with further projects planned in the region.

If we are serious about delivering on our Net Zero promise, we must work together to reduce food waste around the world. The UK is ready to partner with governments and businesses here in the Middle East to help achieve this critical global ambition.

Simon Penney, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for the Middle East and UK Consul General to Dubai and the Northern Emirates

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