Waste Not, Want Not: Not-so-useless waste

Waste Not, Want Not: Not-so-useless waste

Students find new technology helps put leftover food to new uses
Have you ever thought about how leftovers and rotten food in restaurants could be turned into useful materials and even food? Four students did.

The quartet, who are members of teams taking part in Young Post's "Waste Not, Want Not" campaign, visited the Science Park. They met Dr Carol Lin Sze-ki, of the City University of Hong Kong, who is leading a project that is turning unconsumed bakery waste from Starbucks into reusable materials. The students were very impressed by what they saw.

"The explanation and demonstration by Dr Daniel Pleissner was very detailed and interesting," said 15-year-old Cherry Ma Sze-wing, of Sha Tin Government Secondary School. "I learned a lot about how food waste can be transformed into useful things like PHB, a kind of raw material used to make plastic bags."

Lola Wong and Cherry Ma, Dr Carol Sze, Shahul Hameed Nuaim, Dr Daniel Pleissner and Abdul Quddoos. Photo: Edmond So/SCMP

Her classmate Lola Wong Yan-ki was equally impressed. "Walking into the lab, we were met by a strong scent of chemicals," she said. "In front of us were machines with curious substances twirling inside. They were food waste being processed. Daniel explained that food waste can be turned into succinic acid, which is useful for the industrial business."

Shahul Hameed Nuaim from Islamic Kasim Tuet Memorial College was thrilled to be at a professional laboratory for the first time.

"I was awestruck by the architecture of the venue," the 15-year-old said. "I felt like I was in a science-fiction movie. Daniel told us that [with the technology] we are starting to change from a petroleum-based economy to a glucose-based one. This way, we may not need to face the pollution brought by petroleum any more. In future, not much will be wasted as food can be made into biodegradable materials."

His schoolmate Abdul Quddoos was similarly amazed. "One experiment turns the food waste into a green liquid that is actually edible. It looks disgusting, but Daniel said it was safe to drink it. I thought it looked weird, but it's such an environmentally friendly idea," said the 14-year-old.

Pleissner discusses an experiment with the students. Photo: Edmond So/SCMP

The trip has provided the students with some food for thought.

"During the demonstration, Daniel brought up an important question: should we use food waste to produce raw materials to protect the environment?" Lola said. "Let's not forget that there are still people starving every single day. Food waste is valuable. And producing raw materials from it is mind-blowing and should really be encouraged."

You may not have time to get involved with our project but that doesn't mean you can't do your part to reduce food waste. Join us in our Green Ribbon Campaign and sign the pledge to limit your own food waste!


Read about the other workshops:

- Visit to South East New Territories (SENT) Landfill

- Planting crops at Fruitful Organic Farm

- Bread Run with Feeding Hong Kong to collect leftover pastries

- Visit to the Kowloon Bay Waste Recycling Centre to see how they turn food waste into compost

- Learn how the chefs at the Hyatt Regency Shatin use leftovers to create new dishes

- Elvis Au, assistant director at the Environmental Protection Department, explains what the government is doing to fight food waste

- See what some schools are already doing with their food waste



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