Dubai startup aims to tackle food waste, help local farms

The Waste Lab is looking to create simple solutions for households and businesses to compost food scraps and leftovers and help local farms across the UAE


Rohma Sadaqat

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Published: Fri 27 May 2022, 5:58 PM

A Dubai startup is on a mission to tackle the issue of food waste across households and businesses while simultaneously creating solutions that will benefit the local agricultural community in the UAE.

Co-founders Lara Hussein and Ceylan Uren told Khaleej Times that they created The Waste Lab because of their frustration as a household who understood the importance of recycling, but could not find a streamlined and consistent solution for their kitchen food scraps.

“We understood the value of our food scraps and did not want to simply dispose them in our garbage to end up in landfills,” said Lara Hussein, co-founder and CEO of The Waste Lab. “Moreover, living in an apartment, we did not have the option to compost at home. This challenge was also shared by many other households from the conversations and surveys we administered.”

“On the other hand, we saw that we are losing our soil at an alarming rate,” said Ceylan Uren, co-founder and COO of The Waste Lab. “Soil is our foundation and without it, we cannot grow nutritious food, sequester atmospheric carbon, and simply sustain life. So, why not create value out of our food scraps that we are routinely throwing away, that heals and enriches our soils with the organic matter and ecosystem that it desperately needs?”

The Waste Lab is an impact and data driven start-up that aims to turn every food scrap to become an opportunity rather than a burden on our environment and society. It provides simple and customised solutions and guidelines for households and businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, for the separation of food scraps and leftovers from the kitchen, their collection, and natured-based on-site or off-site composting and repurposing.

The startup also tracks data and offers impact reports as well as rewards from its partners. Currently, The Waste Lab has onboarded over 100 households in Dubai in-addition to running several pilot projects.

“Our target is to create healthy compost and by-products that benefit our local soil, local farms, local food, and local jobs,” explained said Lara Hussein. “We are tackling four UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) directly including Sustainable Cities and Communities; Responsible Consumption and Production; Climate Action; and Life on Land. In addition, we are also working in line with the UAE’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and net zero emissions by 2050.”

The Waste Lab recently announced a partnership with Hilton which has committed to cut its global food waste in half by 2030. Emma Banks, vice president of F&B Strategy & Development, EMEA, at Hilton, noted that partnerships with companies such as The Waste Lab are key to achieving this goal.

“As part of Travel with Purpose, our ESG strategy to drive responsible travel globally, we strive to minimise food waste produced in our kitchens, and then send whatever waste is unavoidable for composting,” she explained. “This can only be achieved by working with partners such as the Waste Lab, and we look forward to introducing composting to more hotels in the near future. We are currently running pilot projects at several of our UAE properties. We also had the pleasure of working with them to host a zero-waste suhoor at the Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre this Ramadan.”

“As a company, we recognise our critical responsibility to protect the environment,” she added. “We are pleased to be actively working to reduce our food waste, in line with our Travel with Purpose goals, and hope others are inspired to follow suit.”

How The Waste Lab works

For businesses that are interested in the programme, The Waste Lab always starts off by understanding the expectations, requirements, and space that is available for a composting solution. This is followed by an initial exercise to identify and quantify different food streams.

“Based on the collected data, we formulate a customised proposal that fits their needs, followed by a detailed onboarding and training process on food separation from source, on-site composting process for those who want to compost in their space, or a collection process for those who prefer for us to handle their composting,” explained Hussein. “For households, we offer monthly subscription packages based on the size of the family in addition to the guidelines and starter kit for their food scraps collection and composting.”

Currently, The Waste Lab is operating in Dubai with plans to expand to Abu Dhabi and the other emirates.

“Our ambition is to offer a solution for every business and household to make sure no food is wasted, work with local farms to use the compost for their crop production, work with agriculture and research agencies on R&D on the application of compost and by-products to turn desert sand into farmable soil, as well as provide local data and guidance for the government to set up the legislations and framework towards achieving the nation’s sustainable development goals,” said Ceylan Uren.

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