Mecca City Council complains of Ramadan food waste

Abu Dhabi Ramadan shopping Image copyright Gulf News

Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, promotes self-denial, but Mecca City Council in Saudi Arabia is complaining that it's having to deal with ever greater amounts of food waste.

Council official Osama al-Zaytuni told the Arab News website that refuse workers collected 5,000 tonnes of waste in the first three days, "not including 28,000 sheep carcasses". The council of Islam's holiest city has installed 45 waste compressors near the Central Mosque and sent out an extra 8,000 street-cleaners for the duration of the holiday to try to cope with the problem.

A study by King Saud University rates Saudi Arabia as the biggest waster of food in the world, with 30% of the four million dishes prepared during Ramadan being thrown away uneaten at a cost of 1.2m Saudi Riyals (£187,000; $320,000).

Specialists blame the Ramadan practices of buying too much food in advance, cooking fresh each day rather than using leftovers, and donating more produce to the poor than charities can distribute. The government has appealed to people to cook smaller meals, and is investing in an organic fertiliser factory to absorb some of the waste.

Saudi Arabia is not alone in this. The Middle Eastern environmental group EcoMena says a quarter of the food prepared in Qatar during Ramadan is thrown away, and Abu Dhabi's Food Control Authority has issued tips on how to reduce the amount that goes to waste.

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