Habiba Al Marashi, the NGO’s founder and chairperson, said that consumers now needed to develop a new mindset to scale back waste and develop a healthier country.
“The way we produce and consume is in our hands,” she said.
Speaking at a conference on sustainable consumption and production, Al Marashi advised consumers also to reconsider the amount of food they cook each day.
Around 4% of UAE’s food imports ends up in landfills every year, she said at a time when shipments are growing fast.
“In 2014, total food imports into the country were worth US$100bn. That is set to rise to US$400bn in 2020,” Al Marashi said. “Of that, 3.27m tonnes of food, worth almost US$4bn, is wasted every year.”
She added that EEG has been working closely for years with the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) and Dubai Municipality, as well as corporations and schools, to curb food waste and help educate the public about growing consumerism.
“We need to stand up and take our responsibility very seriously,” she said.
A senior Dubai Municipality official has suggested that restaurants could reduce the size of servings to cut UAE food wastage.
Essam Al Hashemi, the council’s head of food studies, said that stronger regulations governing expiry dates and increasing food donations to charity could also have a significant impact on the problem.
“We have to inform the public that they can reduce the amount of food they are eating… they should only take the food that they require,” he said.
He added that a campaign to combat a 33% spike in food waste during Ramadan in Dubai this year by Dubai Carbon has set out to reduce the amount of discarded food which releases methane greenhouse gases when decomposing in landfills.
The energy agency is encouraging residents to conserve food and reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible to reduce the daily waste stream from homes, hotels and restaurants.
Meanwhile, Fareed Bushehri, a sustainability officer with Unep's regional office in Bahrain, said it is his agency’s main mission was to “decouple economic growth from the adverse effect on the environment” and warned that reducing food waste is a top priority for sustainability.
Bushehri said that reducing food waste started and called consumers to be smarter shoppers by only buying products that are produced from sustainable sources.
“We need to promote less materialistic and polluting practices… or find alternatives. We need to set minimal sustainable limits for products,” he said.
“We need to shift the context of human behaviour. Our main aim is to achieve safe food, air and water.”