By Vanessa Ko
Posting in Cities
HONG KONG -- Land of hardcore foodies and major food waste.
HONG KONG — Earlier this year, the local chapter of green organization Friends of the Earth displayed a large spread of food on the street. Vegetables and packaged bread covered an area of about 50 square feet, providing a stark visual for passersby just some of the edible food thrown out by individual supermarkets daily.
The group reported in May that among the four chains of supermarkets in Hong Kong, each branch was dumping an average of 300 lb. of edible food per day, for an overall total of 29 tons per day.
The awareness campaign by Friends of the Earth has caused a stir and brought to the forefront the problem of food waste in general in Hong Kong.
The city is believed to have one of the highest numbers of restaurants per capita in the world, serving its vast number of self-identified foodies. But the city also produces an astounding amount of food waste per year.
Studies show that the amount of wasted food outdoes neighboring places like Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore, when calculated on a per capita basis, according to the local chapter of Friends of the Earth.
Government figures put the annual amount of food waste in the city at 3,200 tons, with two-thirds come from households, while the rest is attributed to commercial industries like restaurants.
Celia Fung, the environmental affairs officer at Friends of the Earth, says Hong Kong people waste so much food because garbage services are free and food is relatively cheap here. Moreover, food has always come easy: There has never been a food crisis or major disaster to change people’s attitudes about the value of food.
“You can just pay 20 or 30 dollars for a meal,” — about US$3 to $4 — “and you won’t really be concerned about what you should do about the next meal,” she said.
Right now, food waste is not separated in the trash heaps, so it all ends up in landfills. The government has plans to build a composting plant, which will be commissioned in 2015.
But it seems like the easier to tackle problem is edible food being thrown out unnecessarily. The tons of food that supermarkets dump are often wilted vegetables or packaged bread loaves that have passed their expiration date.
The campaign by Friends of the Earth has pressured supermarkets to join programs over the past few months that help unwanted food get to people in need, especially as food prices are rising rapidly. One major supermarket chain has partnered with a large food redistribution program, and others are in discussions about ways to lessen their wastage.
There have always existed small redistribution organizations that take leftover food from bountiful buffet tables at five-star hotels to the poor, as well as numerous food banks, but supermarkets were not participating in these programs until recently.
The main concern among supermarkets is potential liability that might arise if anyone gets sick from a donated food item. Fung said this is a problem best solved with legislation that would protect donors, which already exists in countries like the U.S. and Canada.
Aug 29, 2012
Imagine the volumes of food waste that has been disposing daily, it can actually feed millions of people that are not able to eat regularly, if we don't only waste this. Why we just buy food that we know we cant consume all? The government are having hard time controlling and looking [url=http://www.biogas2.com/agriculture/]solution for agricultural waste[/url], and this food waste also add up on the problem. We are all responsible with this, we need to share our part to lessen food waste.
Ok. I am a Jain from India. There are some practices that we are supposed to follow which are strictly based on science. Firstly after we finish our meal we are supposed to rinse our plates and drink it. One can only do this if no food is left in the plate or one has not overstuffed oneself to the brim. Advantages are 3 fold. It is a whole lot healthier to leave your stomach a little bit empty. Cleaning up after the meals is a whole lot easier. There is no waste of food when many in the world go hungry. BTW in Germany if a person leaves food in ones plate or serving bowls he / she is liable to a fine. May even get arrested !
Vanessa, great article! As a former resident of Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai, etc., I beg to mention one large factor to the food waste issue is the concept of "face." To be able to show off to friends and business colleagues that you can order - and then not consume - loads of food without blinking an eye means you have loads of money. It's meant to look impressive in front of your colleagues, but in the end is a terrible shame of waste. Over-ordering on food seems to be prevalent in southern China, especially in Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
Does anyone else see something wrong with these superficial values? It was common in many countries before they evolved to a more philanthropic and healthful view of the world--maybe China should try to enter the 21rst century not as a glutton, but as part of a better environmentally conscious country. Rather than worry about whether they are wearing the right label--maybe they should worry about preserving what little they have left of their environment.