38% of prepared food in the UAE goes to waste. One resort wants to change that

Published on November 29, 2022

Food waste is becoming a serious global problem. While 1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted every year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 800 million people around the world go hungry every night, the World Food Program states. This isn’t just an economic and social issue – it’s also an environmental problem with deep ramifications.

In the UAE, the issue is even more pressing. Known for its vibrant food culture, the UAE has one of the highest rates of food waste consumption in the world. According to the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence, food wastage in the UAE is estimated at 3.2 million tons, with around 38% of food prepared daily going to waste.

A significant contributor to food waste is the country’s hospitality sector. Since hotels and restaurants usually cater to large number of guests, a substantial amount of food usually goes to waste or gets thrown away, further adding to the country’s food waste problem.

Repurposing Food Waste

However, one hotel group is trying to change that. JA Resorts, a chain of hotels in Dubai, Maldives and Seychelles, is prioritising food waste to not only improve its operations, but to also become an environmentally conscious business. As such, the group was invited to participate in the Living Business program developed by HSBC bank, to further strengthen and enhance its sustainable initiatives, particularly in the UAE.

“Implementing clear policies and targets for reducing our carbon footprint helps in the long term, because the hotel industry is one of the leading contributors of waste,” says Samuel Njoroge, Cluster Quality Assurance Manager at JA Resorts. “We have a lot of food that we produce, and at the same time, we have a lot of food that we waste. So, we really need to rethink alternatives of how we can reduce and repurpose our food waste.”

With support from Living Business, the resort – which comprises three properties: JA Beach Hotel, JA Lake View Hotel, and JA Palm Tree Court – launched a food waste programme in October. The programme converts food waste into natural fertilizer for food production. It uses WasteMaster technology to convert food into a bacteria-free and nutrient-rich residue. As a result, the resort can eliminate up to 80% of its food waste and repurpose about 20% as soil conditioner, which is then distributed to bio farms across the UAE. 

“So, we’re looking at up until 13,725 kgs of food waste being diverted in a month, which will amount to about 164, 250 kgs a year,” says Njoroge. “And over a period of five years, it will be about 821,250 kgs, so that’s a massive, significant amount of food waste that we’re going to be able to divert from landfill into soil conditioners.”

The resort is also in the process of establishing ESG metrics for measuring and monitoring food waste on its properties. “We need to have proper measuring tools so that we can see our performance, because if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” he adds.

These initiatives are in alignment with Dubai Tourism’s 19 sustainability requirements, which includes everything from sustainability management approaches to energy, water and waste management plans.

More sustainability in the pipeline

Now that the company has its waste management program in place, it is also looking into renewable energy alternatives to not only save on costs, but to help lower carbon emissions and reduce reliance on electricity consumption. JA Resorts is currently considering using solar panels to heat water and to save energy in other ways.

“Sustainability never stops,” says Njoroge. “It’s all about improvement and looking at the right solutions.”