Half-eaten sandwiches, chicken and meat bones, rice, bread and other food items are often seen dumped into the garbage throughout the Kingdom.
Food makes up the largest proportion of waste in Saudi Arabia’s landfills. Excuses for wastefulness abound among the people.
As food is an integral part of Saudi Arabian culture, wastage is inevitable. Setting up lavish food tables during Eid festivals, weddings, parties or informal get-togethers is very regular. Wastage of food is a staple feature in these abundant banquets.
“Not wasting food is a tough challenge in a culture where food is so readily thrown away. Several people in my neighborhood throw their leftover food in the garbage,” said Javed Sheikh, a local resident of Jeddah.
Wasting food makes the economy and the environment suffer. Although wastage should go against anyone’s ethical justifications, many people do not seem to mind to leave food on their plate. Many people buy far more groceries than they actually need. Poor planning, a busy lifestyle and having little idea on how to use leftovers lead to a great deal of household food waste.
“The reason people waste food is because everyone takes food for granted as it is so abundant in this country. Fresh food is considered to be hygienic and standardized. People prefer to squander the leftover food as many think it’s unhealthy to eat or they don’t like it,” said a housewife.
The younger generation should especially learn about the significance of food and water. Nazer, a street cleaner, said he saw many children throwing half empty packets of chips, chocolates or burger sandwiches and soft drink bottles on the road. “They are not only littering but also wasting food. This is particularly sad when there are so many in the world that do not have enough food to eat,” he said.
Supermarkets, restaurants and cafes are renowned for their excessive waste. Unsold food items are dumped along with the damaged goods.
While passing by a restaurant, Sayeed Hamza, a local resident, was shocked to see a waiter come out of the back door and throw food in the trash bin. He said, “Many eating places serve huge portions, which very few people eat. All the leftovers are unnecessary waste when just addressing the size of portions would probably resolve the matter.”
Basma, an activist, said, “Awareness about food wastage is necessary. The municipality could maybe introduce a proper food waste management strategy. It is important to teach people the value of food and water. Each member of society should be involved and know the importance of not wasting food.”
People in the Kingdom could aim to reduce wastage of food and redistribute their surplus to the impoverished sections of the society. Collectively or individually, it is vital to address this issue and amend habits before it is too late. Excess food is an untapped energy source that mostly ends up rotting in the landfills and releasing harmful green house gasses into the atmosphere.
“We need to be aware that each morsel of food that goes wasted actually mocks the poverty stricken people in the world,” said Shareef Mohammed, a professor.