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UAE recycling app turns food waste into compost

STORY: From Dubai hotel kitchens, to local farms, UAE-based recycling app ReLoop collects food waste and turns it into compost that can then be used by local farmers.

The circular economy digital app says it helps businesses divert their food waste away from landfills and make growing food in the desert nation less challenging.

ReLoop's co-founder Youssef Chehade says more than 100 hotels and restaurants have joined since its launch in 2021.

:: Youssef Chehade, ReLoop co-founder

"We have diverted more than a million kilograms of food waste from landfills. And that amounts to more than 1,200,000 kg of carbon emissions prevented from being emitted in the landfill."

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In 2022, the UAE's National Food Loss and Waste Initiative - Ne'ma - said about $1.6 billion is wasted annually on food.

In 2023, the government announced an action plan to reduce food loss and waste by 50% by 2030.

Chehade says ReLoop is contributing towards reaching that goal.

The company collects food waste, which is then sorted and taken to a composting facility.

There, it is mixed with landscaping waste and screened.

"And inside the piles that you see here, the natural organisms like worms and fungi aid in the process of composting to produce what we call brown gold that is very nutritious to be used to produce nutritious fruits and vegetables."

The natural composting process can take up to 12 weeks before it is packaged and shipped to local farmers.

The UAE regularly faces water scarcity and has little arable land.

But the Gulf Arab oil producer has been pushing to produce more home-grown food

to improve food security in an arid country that imports some 90% of its food.

Chehade says ReLoop could help boost the domestic agricultural sector.

"We can produce rich compost and soil locally from food waste, and food waste is a very rich in nutrients that really, really enhance the soil structure we have. As you know, we live in a sand desert and we can really turn it into a rich environment to cultivate and to help the agricultural sector and defend and improve our food security for the country."