At 3.9 million tonnes, Dubai’s annual domestic waste is one of the highest in the world, of which 23 per cent are food waste.
What is shocking is the fact that food waste increases by 20 per cent during the holy month of Ramadan, which can be avoided with a little thought.
An average person generates 3.56kg of domestic waste per day, of which roughly 750grams are edible food waste.
This figure increases during Ramadan, as food is prepared in abundance in households, restaurants, hotels as well as public kitchens and charity organisations.
Though households and eateries contribute to a lot of food waste, Iftar tents are seen to be a major source of food waste during Ramadan.
Nearly 30 per cent of what is cooked end up in trash bins across the country which, experts say, is due to bad management by tent organisers and lack of education among common people.
“I have serious reservations against the way food is given out during Iftar in tents as well as outside mosques. There is so much served so haphazardly that people who come to these Iftar tents, most of whom are uneducated and poor people, take as much food as they can but manage to eat only half of it in the short time before prayers and, as a result, a lot is wasted,” said Mohammed Al Kobaisi, Grand Mufti of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department Dubai (IACAD).
Islam is a religion of moderation, it provides balance and seeks balance in every aspect of life. Waste is a serious issue and Islam strictly forbids all sort of waste.
Apart from being a religious issue, wastage of food has humanitarian, social and environmental consequences as well.
“When a person wastes food, he doesn’t realise that he is in a way responsible for food shortage elsewhere. He could have cooked less or he could have donated the extra that he has prepared so that those who don’t have can eat,” he opined, adding that whatever is left over from the community Iftars should be repackaged and given to poor rather than throwing it away.
“When a poor person sees food being wasted, his heart pains and he holds the society responsible for his hunger. His feeling could result in negative actions against the society because he would definitely feel the society doesn’t care for him.”
Volunteers working at Ramadan tents and community Iftars admit that a lot of food is wasted which could otherwise be diverted to poor households and labour camps, but they don’t have the means to do it.
“It is true that there is a lot of leftovers in community Iftars, people take more and leave it when the prayer time starts. If we have the means, we can repackage this and supply it to labour camps, but there is a lack of initiative,” said a volunteer on the condition of anonymity.
Another volunteer agreed that rather than serving food in common utensils and plastic spreads, food should be served in individual containers for each person. “There is a lot of wastage when food is served in plastic spreads, because when the prayer time starts, people just stop eating and rush for the prayers and the spreads are rolled back and thrown in the bins with so much food in it. If food is served in small containers, I am sure everybody would take the leftover home and eat it later,” said Tahir Masood, a volunteer associated with a prominent charity in Dubai.