UNEP Reports Up To 163 Kilograms Of Food Waste In Arab Countries

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The State of Food Waste in West Asia

  • Research shows 25 per cent to 50 per cent of food prepared during Ramadan is wasted

  • 33 per cent of surveyed in 2020 said their food waste increased since COVID-19

An average person throws away at least 75 kilograms up to 163 kgs of food waste each year in Arab countries, according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) latest report, ‘The State of Food Waste in West Asia’. The UN report studied the state of food loss in the 12 countries in West Asian region comprising Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. 

“Food waste in West Asia is alarming as it represents an estimated 34 per cent of the total food served,” the report said. It also noted that during Ramadan, 25 to 50 per cent of food prepared goes to waste. 

A high percentage of households (89.8 per cent) said that the main reason for throwing the food away is expiry date. The findings also showed that other reasons for food loss were smell and taste, as well as the undesirable look such as blemishes. The report further identified fruits, vegetables, and salads to be the most frequent contributors to food waste generation. 

Understanding the attitudes and behaviours of households across the region is important according to UNEP, citing that having the available data offers opportunities to promote sustainable lifestyles and empower the youth to make a positive impact. Some of the key findings in the report also highlighted the importance of raising awareness about the impact of food waste on the environment and food security. 

“It is important to tackle food waste in West Asia as a means to reduce pressure on landfills and minimize methane emissions that contribute to climate change,” the report explained. 

Addressing food loss is also key to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12, which seeks to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.” Under SDG 12, one of the targets is to cut at least half of the per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, as well as reducing food loss along the production and supply chains by 2030.

Another key finding of the report was the impact of the pandemic on eating habits within households. In a survey of 200 participants from July to November 2020, 33 per cent revealed that their food waste increased during COVID-19 while 67 per cent said it remain unchanged. Respondents, however, noted their increase of using food leftovers during this period.

With the magnitude of food loss in the region, the report recommended that new policies must be developed to drive support towards cutting food waste and encourage as well various supply chain operators to invest and adjust. Furthermore, an increase in investments should go along with adopting and transferring relevant technologies to address the issue.