Hong Kong food waste reduction counts on children, creativity

By Lorie Ann Cascaro

HONG KONG — The city is counting on the younger generations in solving the problem on food waste, while being creative in promoting sustainable habits.

The Environment Bureau launched last December the pre-primary environmental education kit to raise children’s awareness of protecting resources and reducing food waste. It points out that childhood is “an important part of environmental education.”

The bureau also prompted the education sector to cultivate among children the culture of “use less, waste less,” which is the theme of the government’s food waste plan launched in February 2014.

Supported by different sectors, the Environmental Campaign Committee set up last June an internet platform called “Waste Less School” for kindergarten, primary and secondary students. It aims to promote “zero food waste” among children, extend awareness through school events and encourage the public “to change their behavior.”

In its plan, the government aims to cut the disposal rate to landfill of municipal solid waste on a per capita basis by two-fifth in 2022. It says the critical part is to reduce food waste production.

Food waste here reached 3,600 tons every day in 2011. Households produced two-thirds of it. The rest came from food-related commercial and industrial establishments.

The amount of food waste from households had increased from 786,200 tons in 2008 to 925,200 tons in 2012, according to the Environmental Protection Department.

“Apparently, it is still more effective to start the environmental education at home,” said Wise Wong, who used to teach at the York International Kindergarten. Children learn the value of conserving food from their parents first, she added.

Sandy Zeng from Hung Hom district said she occasionally takes her 4-year-old daughter to a farm to show where their food came from. The child can see the tedious processes of planting and harvesting vegetables in the farm, and learn to give importance to the food and its sources, Zeng said.

Since the Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign began in May 2013, schools have done various activities and platforms for their students to participate in reducing food waste.

Meanwhile, Wong said it is effective to use animation characters to instill the values among children, especially if the ones being used are their favorite cartoons. “It’s like having a role model in a creative and fun way,” she added.

Cartoon character “Big Waster” that symbolizes food wastage in the FWHK Campaign “is gradually gaining popularity,” according to its press release. It also went online to interact with the public, especially the young generation, through its Facebook page.

"Big Waster" of Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign poses in a poster retrieved from its Facebook page.
“Big Waster” of Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign poses in a poster retrieved from its Facebook page.

However, it is yet to be surveyed how Hong Kong people respond to animation characters and mascots of environmental and other campaigns, said Ms. Wong of the industry support section of Create Hong Kong that has the mandate to boost creative industries.

CreateHK held in 2013 the first mascot design competition here for “Hong Kong: Our Home” Campaign. Its four themes each with a mascot were “Hip Hong Kong,” “Vibrant Hong Kong,” “Caring Hong Kong,” and “Fresh Hong Kong.”

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)