KT for Good: Compost your organic waste at home in UAE
Sudheesh's rice cultivation attempt in 2014 was supported by his then employer, the Sharjah Electrical and Water Authority.
The 11th part of our 14-day ‘Save Food, Save Lives’ series’ looks into the ways to dispose of organic waste.
Millions are struggling to feed their families daily and yet here we are allowing more than a third of our food supply to rot. A ripple of change can go a long way — and we can start it in the UAE during this Ramadan, when lavish dinner spreads are set up every night. The 11th part of our 14-day ‘Save Food, Save Lives’ series’ looks into the ways to dispose of organic waste.
The amount of waste in the UAE has increased tremendously in the last decade. Most of the waste ends up in municipal landfills or dump sites, where organic waste generates a large amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Currently, little of the waste is burnt and the rate of municipal waste recycling has been rapidly rising.
Can you re-use organic waste?
With all the organic waste that is generated in households, gardening experts and practitioners have said residents can use leftover plant and vegetable waste to grow their own vegetable and fruit garden at home, using sustainable agricultural practices. Organic farming expert Sudheesh Guruvayoor has successfully created a paddy and wheat field behind his home in Sharjah.
Sudheesh's rice cultivation attempt in 2014 was supported by his then employer, the Sharjah Electrical and Water Authority. In 2016, he opened up his paddy field to students from three schools for their first rice harvest festival.
Sudheesh swears by using natural composting materials. He said: "You can grow a drumstick plant using a bucket with holes in them. Also, commercial leafy greens have a lot of pesticides in them. It is better to grow them at home."
Leena Maniyath, a school teacher at Sunrise English Private School, Abu Dhabi, said her school started a campaign on smart waste management in 2018. "Students collected waste from their homes and their communities on a regular basis. These were placed into a machine, which converts waste to manure within a few hours." The manure is utilised in the school's organic farm. The produce is sold to parents during open house meetings and the rest is given to Al Ain farms through a waste management initiative from Masdar City. She explained: "We bought the machine for the school in April 2018. The machine converts the waste from the school canteen and from homes into organic compost with minimal electricity consumption."
Waste management in Dubai and Sharjah
The Dubai Municipality's Waste Management Department prepared the Dubai Integrated Waste Management Master Plan in 2012, with an aim to reduce the amount of waste being sent to the landfills to zero in 20 years.
The authority announced it will establish the largest plant in the Middle East to convert solid waste into energy at a cost of Dh2 billion in the Warsan district. The move also comes in line with the National Agenda to reduce the landfill by 75 per cent by 2021, in addition to protecting the environment from methane gas emitted by the landfill.
Sharjah set up municipal waste management company Bee'ah (the Arabic word for environment) in 2007 in the form of a public-private partnership. In October 2011, Sharjah announced an ambitious plan for 100 per cent landfill diversion by 2015. To attain this goal, Bee'ah developed a state-of-the-art waste management centre to process and recycle waste.
According to an official statement from the company, "In 2012, the company introduced two-stream waste collection and a new tipping fee structure to incentivise waste reduction and to closely regulate landfill contents. Improved blue and green coloured, odour-proof bins have been deployed across the emirate."
Tips and tricks for the #FoodSoldier in you
Throughout the course of our campaign, Khaleej Times will reveal three food conservation tips and tricks every day. Follow these to become the number one #FoodSoldier
1-Quickly measure portions: A big chunk of household food waste arises as we prepare way more than we can eat. For things like rice, pasta and cereals, having a simple measuring cup or scale that takes five seconds can do wonders to reduce 'plate waste'. If you're still feeling peckish, add a little something to the meal to feel full, so experimenting with smaller portions is a good pro tip.
2-Shop groceries online: The closer you get to the checkout, the more sweets and treats you see. Supermarkets are great at convincing you to buy food you don't need or isn't good for you. Shopping while hungry is a big no-no. Thanks to the Internet, grocery shopping can be a breeze, helping you buy food you really need. It's not everyone's cup of tea, however, giving it a shot reduces portion sizes and the big bill at the end of shopping.
3-Upcycle your scraps: Stale bread plus garlic equals garlic bread. Old bananas make smoothies and cakes. When you have time, grab any food that looks like it is going to be wasted soon. Put it on your kitchen bench, and invent a new meal. You will amaze yourself!