The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is considering imposing fines on households with high levels of food waste as part of its efforts to promote responsible consumption, according to Khuloud Hasan Al Nuwais, the head of the UAE’s food loss and waste initiative, Ne’ma. Al Nuwais stated that fines might be necessary to change attitudes towards this global issue.
Ne’ma, established in March 2022, aims to coordinate efforts across government agencies, the private sector, non-government organizations, and society to reduce food loss and waste throughout the supply chain. The initiative estimates that Dh6 billion ($1.63 billion) worth of food is wasted annually in the UAE, with each person wasting an average of 224kg of food per year, nearly double the figures in Europe and North America.
While Al Nuwais emphasized that immediately enforcing fines may not be the right approach, she suggested that making people pay for the amount of waste they generate, similar to water and electricity fees, could raise awareness about food waste. Ne’ma’s goal is to reduce food waste by 50% nationwide by 2030.
Al Nuwais highlighted the UAE’s hospitable culture as a contributing factor to the high levels of food waste. She expressed distress over the contrast between food excess in some regions and scarcity in others, emphasizing the humanitarian and moral responsibility to address this issue. Mariam Al Mheiri, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment, also stressed the role of households in addressing waste, acknowledging the need to combat wasteful behaviors.
Ne’ma is actively assessing the causes of food waste across the entire supply chain, from producers to consumers. Households are identified as the primary culprits, responsible for approximately 60% of all food waste. To address this, the initiative plans to launch a pilot program educating the public and businesses on minimizing food waste.
Ne’ma aims not only to raise awareness but also to encourage action, adopting a scientific approach to introduce behavioral nudges promoting new norms or habits. These nudges include encouraging businesses to use smaller plates to reduce portion sizes and diverting food waste from landfills, a priority in combating climate change. Overall, the UAE is taking comprehensive steps to tackle food waste, aligning with its ambitious goals and commitment to responsible consumption.