Hong Kong’s food donors seek funding for sustainability

By Lorie Ann Cascaro

Hong Kong — Helping to reduce food waste in Hong Kong, food donors are seeking a funding to sustain their operations, Astor Wong, project manager of Food Angel by Bo Charity Foundation, said Monday.

“Like all non-subvented charities, money is always one of the biggest challenges,” she said in an email. Food Angel had saved 752,600 kilograms of surplus food from going to wasteland, and served 1,030,000 meals since March 2011, its website states.

Some 30 small and medium food donation organizations have collected and distributed recycled meat and vegetables to Hong Kong people, said Celia Fung, former environmental affairs officer of Friends of Earth (FOE), a charitable organization here, in a phone interview on Monday.

Having worked with FOE in the last 4 years, Fung said they began advocating food waste reduction in 2010 by pushing markets to donate their surplus foods to organizations that distribute recycled foods, she said.

“The campaign was successful,” she said, however, food donors “cannot put all their efforts in saving food.” She said, as non-profitable groups, they collect and distribute for free, thus, seeking subsidies to be sustainable.

Another challenge that food donors face is the difficulty in persuading commercial sectors to donate food because of safety issues, Fung said.

As for Wong, it takes more time to popularize food donation among industries because the concept of food recycling is “still relatively new in Hong Kong.”

Furthermore, commercial sectors hesitate to donate their surplus foods because there is no law to regulate food donations, including food recycling measures, Fung said. She said non-government organizations have been lobbying policies related to food waste management for three years now, but, the legislative body has other priorities. She added that while accident related to food recycling has not occurred yet, there is no urgency for the government to tackle the issue.

Hong Kong produces an average of 9,000 tons per day (tpd) of municipal solid waste, one-third of which were food waste, Fung said.

Solid waste monitoring reports show that food waste was reduced by 247 tpd, from 3,584 tpd in 2011 to 3,337 tpd in 2012. This was due to reduction of food waste in industrial and commercial waste from 1,056 tpd in 2011 to 809 tpd in 2012.

Fung said the campaign has helped to achieve such decrease in food waste, adding that food donors had served meals to over a thousand families.

On the contrary, the same data show 282 tpd increase in total municipal solid waste from 8,996 tpd in 2011 to 9,278 tpd in 2012. The government is yet to update data on solid waste monitoring in 2013 and 2014.

Meanwhile, environmental experts and officers from 22 Asian countries will exchange views about solid waste management, including food waste, during the Eco Expo Asia-International Trade Fair on Environmental Protection, being held from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 in Hong Kong, Sum Luk of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council said Monday in a phone interview.

“Food waste remains a big problem in Hong Kong, but it could be solved if people would only get what they can eat,” Jerry Lo, 28, sales executive of Harbour Grand Hong Kong and resident in Tsing Yi, said in an interview.

Street food in Mong Kok by Lorie Ann Cascaro
A man passes by a food shop at Mong Kok, Hong Kong. (PHOTO BY Lorie Ann Cascaro)

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