The issue of food waste is one of the most pressing issues facing our planet today. According to figures issued by the United Nations, about a third of food produced worldwide is wasted every year, or about 1.3 billion tons, at a value of one trillion dollars annually. The irony is that at the same time, more than 820 million people experienced hunger in 2018, compared to 811 million in 2017. Experts have warned that the current rate of consumption will not be sustainable by 2050, and three planets like the Earth will almost need to provide the necessary natural resources To maintain current lifestyles. Food production requires about 30% of the total electricity consumption in the world, and this releases 22% of greenhouse gas emissions. And the production of food and waste that ends in landfills is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide production in the world. Other environmental problems associated with food production include soil degradation and low fertility, unsustainable water use, overfishing and degradation of the marine environment.
The United Nations has identified responsible consumption and production promotion among the 17 sustainable development goals.
The 12th goal seeks to halve per capita food waste for retailers and consumers. To achieve this, the entire food supply chain must be mobilized, from producers to retailers, the food and beverage industry, and consumers, as everything from harvesting, transport, warehousing, processing, packaging, distribution, to consumption is better managed if we want to move to a more sustainable economy that meets the needs of future generations.
According to available statistics on food waste in Arab countries, it reaches 34%. This issue is of great concern in a region with high rates of malnutrition, obesity and associated diabetes, and where food security is based on imports from other regions. Recent data indicate that consumer waste in the region represents 32% of total food waste, and 68% is wasted in the early stages of the food supply chain. Fruits and vegetables account for 45% of the wasted food, while fish and seafood have a share of wastage of 28%. Research has found that the main causes of food waste in the region are due to supply chain problems caused by poor infrastructure, regulatory policies and bad practices in agriculture and post-harvest. On the consumer level, the lack of awareness, poor shopping habits and lack of planning contribute a large part to this waste. Culture also has a role, as large quantities of food are wasted in restaurants, during celebrations and social events. The Gulf Cooperation Council states are a signatory to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and are actively looking for solutions to reduce food waste. Therefore, food waste management is an urgent issue in a region where the population growth rate is one of the fastest in the world, and the lack of arable land and water supplies affects food security.
Technical developments, including big data and artificial intelligence, may be key to more effective and efficient supply chains and improved food management.
Control in the Emirates
The hospitality sector represents one of the largest defendants in the matter of food waste in the UAE, and for this reason the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment in the country cooperated with the company “Weno” to encourage various companies in the hospitality sector to reduce food waste. The "AI" AI-powered Vision tool allows hotels and restaurants to calculate the quantity and type of food that ends in its boxes. The tool uses images and metrics to calculate the cost of wasted food. This allows food workers to better control their product needs and customer requirements, and adjust their food supplies accordingly. The UAE exceeded its goal of providing one million meals during the first year of using the tool in 2018. The goal in 2019 was to provide two million meals and three million meals in 2020. The tool allowed hotels to save more than $ 1.6 million annually.
Applications that aim to distribute the remaining foods from restaurants at discount prices have spread in several countries. For example, the app Bon App was launched in 2018, which allows the sale of food that was thrown in waste containers at a price ranging between 30 and 50% of its original price. The app is used to sell excess packaged foods, unsold meals and baked products, before they are finished in landfills. A similar app called Cape Eight has just been launched, and it has a similar business model for Bon App.
By 2050 we will need three planets, like Earth, to provide resources for our current consumption.
• One trillion dollars worth of food wasted annually, and 820 million people who suffer from hunger.