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From Food Waste to Food Wise: Solutions for Food Waste in Hong Kong

by Kristin Tsui Asia Dec 7th 20214 mins
From Food Waste to Food Wise: Solutions for Food Waste in Hong Kong

Of all the environmental issues, food waste is among the most ridiculous; we waste energy and resources to make food we don’t eat and the decaying food end up releasing potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Despite the government’s effort to employ new biotechnology and initiate elaborate food campaigns, modest improvements were made. To nip food waste in the bud, it is us – the consumers – who have the ultimate power. Here are some solutions for food waste in Hong Kong. 

Korean barbecue to dim sum, fine dining restaurants to “dai pai dongs”; the streets of Hong Kong are teeming with food options. While the price of food is famously inexpensive, this blooming food culture comes with a hefty cost – 3,600 tonnes to be exact. That is how much food we send to Hong Kong landfills every day. 

What is Food Waste?

Any food that goes uneaten is food waste, but this isn’t limited to the food scraps or half-eaten meals we leave at dinner. From producers to handlers to consumers, some food is lost at every step – think discoloured or irregularly shaped fruits being thrown out at supermarkets or perishables that spoil during transportation.

While the majority of food waste is unnecessary (see image), some – like bones and eggshells – are inevitable. solutions for food waste What is Food Waste? Source: A Food Waste & Yard Waste Plan for Hong Kong

Why is Food Waste a Problem?

We are wasting a lot of energy to produce food that we don’t eat. It takes valuable energy and resources to grow, harvest, transport, and package food products. Currently, food waste makes up the largest fraction (40%) of our daily municipal solid waste, with household, commercial and industrial food waste as the main sources. Most notably, edible food is wasted while one in five people in Hong Kong struggle with food security.

Food Waste and the Environment

Food waste is compostable and recyclable. Yet, most of them are mixed with general solid waste and are sent to landfills. This is a problem because: 

  1. The city has been struggling to keep its rubbish under the lid; we have already cycled through thirteen landfill sites and the three that are currently running will soon reach their capacity. Disposing food waste in the landfills is putting an unnecessary strain to our saturating landfills.
  2. Decomposing food in the landfill releases methane gas – a potent greenhouse gas, which has a much stronger heat-trapping ability than carbon dioxide. 
  3. Odour and leachate from rotting food generate environmental nuisance that may require additional mitigation steps.

You might also like: 15 Countries That Waste the Most Food

Solutions for Food Waste

Seven years ago, the Environment Bureau released a food waste plan for Hong Kong, with the aim to reduce 40% of food waste going to landfills – from 3,600 tonnes to 2,160 tonnes – by 2022; fast forward to now, only 7% reduction has been achieved. Although the progression is slower than we’d like, we are taking strides towards the right direction. Here are a few highlights of our current strategies and solutions for food waste:

Pros What can be improved? 
  • Mobilising multiple sectors, like NGOs and education institutions to raise public awareness of food waste.
  • Changing the mindset around food tackles the issue at its source; everyone consumes food and therefore has the power to make a difference.
Increase promotions to restaurants and food vendors. In a report that surveyed 198 vendors from 18 markets across Hong Kong, 66% did not participate in Food Wise because they were not aware of the campaign or unsure as to how to take part in it.
Pros What can be improved?
  • Rescuing surplus food and donating it to where it’s needed.
The number of food waste from the commercial and industrial sector has gone up 40% in the last decade. More collaborations with this sector can improve the redistribution of excess food.
Pros  What can be improved?
  • Diverting food waste from landfills
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emission 
  • Surplus electricity is exported to the grid. When running in full capacity, O·Park1 can generate enough electricity for 3,000 households.
O·Park1 can only handle 200 tonnes – less than 6%  – of food waste we produce each day.

Fortunately, O·Park2 construction is underway and is expected to treat 300 tonnes per day starting 2023.

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