Promote food waste reduction at source as well as recycling, Hong Kong green group urges government

The government should encourage Hongkongers to reduce food waste at source while also promoting recycling, the founder of environmental group The Green Earth has said.

“By letting the public understand both ways to deal with waste, then the outcome, the effect, will be much better,” Edwin Lau of The Green Earth said on government-backed broadcaster RTHK’s Hong Kong Today programme on Thursday.

food waste
Food waste. File photo: Flickr/Sporkist.

Lau’s comments came after the issue of food waste recycling was raised in the Legislative Council. Responding to questions asked by lawmaker Dennis Leung on Wednesday, Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan said that the amount of food waste recycled in Hong Kong was “increasing progressively,” with an average of around 270 tonnes recovered daily in May, “representing an increase of about 60 per cent compared to last year.”

However, 270 tonnes is just 8 per cent of the 3,302 tonnes sent to landfill daily in 2022, the last year for which waste statistics are currently available. Food waste accounts for about 30 per cent of the municipal solid waste generated in Hong Kong per day, about 70 per cent of which is produced in Hongkongers’ homes.

Tam, who lives in Sham Shui Po, disposes of food waste, in Hong Kong, on May 31, 2024. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
A woman disposes food waste in Hong Kong. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

To combat this, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has in recent years enhanced food waste collection points, with some 1,100 currently set up across the city, according to Tse.

Smart food waste collection bins have been installed at over 90 per cent of Hong Kong’s public housing estates, and the EPD aims to install one such bin at every government-subsidised housing block within two years. Private residential buildings can apply for funding to establish the smart food waste bins.

“We welcome the government’s plans to expand the food waste recovery bins for all public housing estates, but the time line can be a bit faster than two years,” Lau told RTHK, adding that the government should also expand the food waste collection network to other types of residential building, including those without any formal property management.

“Placing food waste smart recycling bins, no matter in public housing estate or private estates, it’s not rocket science, it’s quite simple… I don’t think it takes a lot of time,” Lau said.

garbage bin, waste bag, waste tax, designated waste bags
A smart bin for food waste at Moon Lok Dai Ha public housing estate in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, on April 2, 2024. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Hong Kong’s food waste treatment and composting capacity was also an issue, Lau said. He projected the city would have the facilities to handle about 600 tonnes per day by the end of the year, far below the 3,302 tonnes landfilled daily in 2002.

Lau urged the government to “step up other public education and promote the proper way to address food waste, [which] is not just recycling but to avoid the generation of food waste at the source.”

See also: How big is Hong Kong’s waste problem, and how much does it recycle?

The government last month placed a long-discussed waste charging scheme on indefinite hold, saying “society is not prepared.” It was supposed to be introduced in August, a start-date already postponed from April, but faced opposition from the public and many establishment figures.

Designed to reduce domestic waste by requiring people to pay for what they dispose of through the use of designated bags, the delayed tax did appear to have made an impact. Awareness of recycling in Hong Kong “has been increasing quite rapidly in the last couple of months,” Lau said.

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