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Jun 30, 2017

Food Waste in Ramadan in Saudi Arabia: a bad habit must change!

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Food waste is a result of having too much of unconsumed and unneeded food. It is considered a serious problem in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, countries in the gulf region, especially Saudi Arabia and UAE, has one of the highest food waste generation rates in the world.[1]The issue of food waste does not have only an economical impact, but also has an environmental, and social impacts.[2] Food waste accounts for 35% of total waste in Saudi Arabia,[3]and costs around SR49 billion every year.[4] During Ramadan, the issue of food waste is increasing in Saudi compared to the rest of the year. Saudi Arabia wastes around 1.1 million tonnes of rice in Ramadan, and 50,000 tonnes of food are wasted and go to the trash every year.[5]

Ramadan is the holy month that encourages Muslims to detox their bodies, and strengthen their relationship with God, and more importantly, to remember unfortunate people who suffer from drought, starvation, and wars. However, it is a different story in Saudi Arabia, sadly, Ramadan is now becoming the month of huge feasts and consequently substantial quantities of wasted food, which is against the Islamic teachings. The Holy Quran and Islamic teachings have provided a clear guidance for Muslims to avoid extravagance and reduce waste. God has commanded Muslims not to waste his blessings and his messenger, Mohammad PBUH, has thought us how to eat in moderation. God says in the Holy Qouran: {Eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifûn (those who waste by extravagance).} [Quran 7:31].[6]
The avoidance of food waste has received growing interests recently. For example, the second goal of Sustainable Development Goals aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. It might be difficult to achieve this goal without focusing first on managing food more effectively and food disposal in a sustainable manner. Also, there is a need for raising awareness and setting the right legislations to achieve this goal and to reduce food waste and end hunger as well.[7]

In several occasions, the topic of food waste has been introduced to the Saudi Shoura Council meetings, and it was initially introduced in 2015. The Shoura Council members have discussed at the beginning of this year the food waste issue in Saudi and suggested setting a legislation that limits and stop this issue from growing. This potential law aims to limit and reduce the amount of wasted food, and at the same time, it aims to punish individuals and businesses who waste food. However, there is no legal action has been taken yet to limit this issue.[8]

The issue of food waste can be tackled by adopting the following recommendations:
   Changing our unsustainable behavior of consuming food will help in reducing the amount of wasted food. We have to be more responsible in buying, storing, consuming and disposing food.[9]
   Donating food surplus to local food banks and charities.
   Composting food waste in our homes. The produced compost can be used as an organic fertilizer to grow plants in the house garden.[10]

Composting in 6 easy steps (Source).

   Raising awareness: the Etaam International conference which took place in Riyadh in 11-12 April, 2017, has highlighted the Saudi Vision 2030 in light of nutritional health and the inter-relationship between food consumption, wasted, and food security. The conference highlighted the importance of using social media to spread awareness of food preservation and eliminating food waste.[11]
   Introducing binding laws and fines to stop individuals and businesses that produce significant quantities of food waste.  

About Hadeel Banjar

 Hadeel Banjar is an environmentalist, author, and a researcher. Banjar educational backgrounds include an M.A. in Global Leadership and Sustainable Development from Hawaii Pacific University, United States & a B.S. in Biology from Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah, Saudi Arabia with a Minor Degree in Education. Miss Banjar has worked as an Environmental Research Assistant at the Gulf Research Center, where she worked on various topics such as Sustainable Development Goals, Sustainability Issues, Green Cities, food and water security, Desertification, Environment and GCC economy, and Green Policies.