Food for thought
Local group takes the lead to lower food waste, but more should be done, it says
Heavy traffic roared past the Yau Ma Tei wholesale fruit market, where the air was filled with the scent of a mixture of fruit. In the middle of two busy traffic lanes under the sizzling hot sun, a perfectly-round-shaped watermelon and a bag of mangoes lay still on the waist-high cement road divide.
From one side of the divide, a middle-aged woman gazed at bags of mangoes lying on the pavement on the other side of the road. She crossed the road, carefully negotiating her way through two lanes of traffic, only to find that the mangoes were rotten.
A middle-aged woman, standing at the opposite side of the road, gazed at those greenish and yellowish fruits. Alertly passed the traffic lane and cautiously picked up the fruit waste, she only found that the whole bag of mangos were rotten.
"Obviously we can't use them as garbage enzyme because they are all decayed and darkened," said the volunteer from Woofer Ten, a local non-governmental organisation that has been picking dumped fruit for recycling.
The project, called "Yau Ma Tei Leftover Guide", is co-organised by Woofer Ten and visual arts students from Hong Kong Baptist University. It enables participants to engage in the actual process of recycling food by collecting dumped fruit and using them to produce garbage enzymes as organic household cleansers.
Ms Li Sze-ming, a visual arts student at HKBU, appreciated the green groups' efforts to save edible food waste, regarding it as an act of "respect for the value of each individual".
"At least the dumped food goes to the hands of the people in need in the community rather than to the landfills," the art student said.
According to the Environmental Protection Department, Hong Kong generates about 3,200 tonnes of food waste daily, or 30 per cent of all solid wastes. Only one-third of the food waste originates from the commercial and industrial sectors, with the bulk coming from households.
The volume of food waste has doubled in the last five years, even as the remaining capacities of Hong Kong's three landfills will be exhausted by 2014, 2016 and 2018.
Friends of the Earth, the environmental group, has found that one-third of the 87 tonnes of food waste it analysed on five occasions from February to May this year was edible and could have fed 48,000 families of three.
And according to the research statistics from Friends of the Earth based on an analysis of food waste on five occasions from February to May this year, one-third is still edible among those 87 tonnes of food waste. This figure is expected to feed the mouths of 48, 000 families of three.
Mr Jonathan Wong Woon-chung, professor from the department of Biology at HKBU, said the food waste problem posed a strain to our environment not only in terms of landfill space, but also global warming and odour pollution.
Methane, a kind of greenhouse gas generated from decayed food waste, is one of the contributing factors to climate change. Meanwhile, odour from the landfills seriously annoys nearby residents.
"If we can reutilise the food waste instead of dumping it in landfills, we probably won't have those negative environmental impacts,' said Professor Wong.
In fact, four leading supermarket chains, Wellcome, Jusco, CR Vanguard, and ParknShop in Hong Kong have already responded to the government's request to donate 29 tonnes of edible food waste to charitable organisations.
Ms Celia Fung Sze-lai, environmental affairs officer of Friends of the Earth, said there was a growing consensus from all walks of lives in Hong Kong about garbage fees. "The government should impose mandatory garbage disposal fees on both households and commercial and industrial sectors without delay," he said.
Ms Fung also called for the government's initiative to "adjust the existing legal liabilities for food stores so as to encourage them to distribute surplus food."
Reported by Ruby Leung
Edited by Sophia Fu
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