x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Many are going green despite the challenges

Food producers in the Emirates are increasingly going green - shifting to biodegradable packaging, minimising water wastage and looking to solar energy.

Food producers in the Emirates are increasingly going green - shifting to biodegradable packaging, minimising water wastage and looking to solar energy. Masafi, which produces drinking water, juices and snack foods, has recently introduced a biodegradable wrap as a label for its bottles and is looking at bringing to the UAE a cardboard recycling plant from the Swedish company Tetra Pak. Al Ghurair Foods has reduced the amount of waste water generated by its plant from 300 tonnes per day to 40 tonnes and is exploring packaging its oils in bottles made from recycled plastic. And IFFCO, one of the largest food producers in the region, will soon be re-engineering its factory processes in the UAE to be more environmentally friendly. The Emirates has the largest per-capita carbon footprint in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund. But in recent months, local retailers and governments have been increasing their efforts to go greener.

In November, a proposal was submitted to Abu Dhabi authorities to ban plastic bags in shops by the middle of this year, replacing them with paper or cloth. Planners at Masdar City, a carbon-neutral development being created on the edge of the capital, aims to have all retail products marked with information about their carbon footprints. McDonald's restaurants across the Middle East will follow their counterparts in North America and replace styrofoam containers with cardboard packaging in about a month. UAE residents also appear more willing than their counterparts in Canada, the UK, and China to pay a premium for green products or services, according to a survey by the Royal Sun Alliance insurance group in September. Just over one third of UAE respondents were willing to pay between 1 and 5 per cent more, while 19 per cent were willing to pay 5 to 10 per cent more for green goods or services.

Attitudes may be changing, but challenges remain. Switching to eco-friendly technologies such as solar power can be costly, and food manufacturers say there is not enough support from local governments. @Email:aligaya@thenational.ae