With the holy month of Ramadan already underway, huge food wastage in the Middle East is again hogging limelight. It is a widely accepted fact that almost half of the municipal solid waste stream in the Middle East is comprised of food wastes and associated matter. The increasing amount of food wastage in Ramadan urgently demands a strong and holistic food management strategy to ensure its minimization, ethical utilization and eco-friendly disposal.
Food Waste in Ramadan
Middle Eastern nations are acknowledged as being the world’s top food wasters, and during Ramadan the situation takes a turn for the worse. In the GCC nations, as per conservative estimates, around 50 percent of the food prepared during Ramadan is wasted.
In 2012, the Dubai Municipality estimated that in Ramadan, around 55% of household waste (or approximately 1,850 tons is thrown away every day. An estimated 4500 tons of food is wasted across Saudi Arabia during Ramadan. Food waste generation in Bahrain exceeds 400 tons per day during the holy month, according to Rehan Ahmad, Head of Waste Disposal Unit (Bahrain). As far as Qatar is concerned, almost half of the food prepared during Ramadan find its way into garbage bins.
The amount of food waste generated in Ramadan is significantly higher than other months. There is a chronic inclination of Muslims towards over-indulgence and lavishness in the holy month, even though the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), asked Muslims to adopt moderation in all walks of life. Socio-cultural attitudes and lavish lifestyles also play a major role in more food waste generation in Ramadan in almost all Muslim countries.
The greater the economic prosperity and the higher percentage of urban population, the greater the amount of waste produced. A good example is the case of oil‐rich GCC which figures among the world’s most prolific per capita waste generators. High-income groups usually generate more food waste per capita when compared to less-affluent groups. Hotels, cafeterias, restaurants etc. are also a big contributor of food wastes in the Middle East during the holy month of Ramadan.
Food waste generation is expected to steadily with the rapid growth of regional economies boom. The per capita production of solid waste in Arab cities such as Riyadh, Doha and Abu Dhabi is more than 1.5 kg per day, placing them among the highest per capita waste producers in the world. These statistics point to loss of billions of dollars each year in the form of food waste throughout the Arab world, especially during Ramadan.
The Way Forward
The foremost steps to reduce food wastage are behavioral change, increased public awareness, strong legislations, food banks, recycling facilities (composting and biogas plants) and community participation. Effective laws and mass sensitization campaigns are required to compel the people to adopt waste minimization practices and implement sustainable lifestyles.
During Ramadan, religious scholars and prayer-leaders can play a vital role in motivating Muslims to follow Islamic principles of sustainability, as mentioned in the Holy Quran and Hadith The best way to reduce food waste is to feel solidarity towards millions and millions of people around the world who face enormous hardships in having a single meal each day.