I’ve always wondered where all the food at a buffet goes at the end of the day, but I never realised what a big problem food waste was until I found out that 40 per cent of the food produced in the world is thrown away.
The more I researched, the more I realised that this was a global issue with serious global impacts. Eighty per cent of all the fresh water used in the United States goes to the country’s food production. Water is being wasted in large amounts. Meanwhile, California is still suffering from drought, and 13 per cent of US households do not have enough healthy food.
The picture is just as bad in Hong Kong. More than 3,600 tonnes of food are wasted here every day – that’s about the weight of 600 elephants. Most of this goes straight to city’s three landfills, which are projected to be full by 2019. That’s only two years away.
On top of being a shameful waste of resources, food waste in landfills produces methane gases, carbon dioxide, and wastewater. And not just a little bit – food is the third largest greenhouse-gas emitting “country” after China and the US.
What can you do?
Would you go to a pool and spa that uses sludge - sewage from toilets and kitchens - if it means helping the environment?
1. Start being more mindful of how much food you buy and how much goes to waste
Websites such as lovefoodhatewaste.ca offer food storage tips and menu ideas for leftovers – maybe there’s an opportunity to start a HK website!
2. Look out for the “Food Wise Eateries” logo in restaurants and hotels
This accreditation recognises companies that are doing things to reduce their food waste. Some are donating unused, edible food to companies such as Foodlink, Food Grace, and Food Angel, which then distributes the food to shelters and charities. They can also donate food scraps to organic farms, animal feed producers, or green energy generators. Canadian supermarket chain Loblaws has invested in its own anaerobic digester to convert organic waste to energy, which it sells to the city!
3. Ask if your residential estate can start accepting sorted waste
All they have to do is submit an application on the wastereduction.gov.hk website. In many North American cities, citizens must sort their waste into recycling, compost, and garbage, which makes it much easier for the city to deal with the waste.
4. Talk to businesses or build an app to buy uneaten goods
Some supermarkets in France sell “ugly” food – good food which would normally be thrown away – at lower prices. In the UK and Denmark, an app called “Too Good to Go” also allows businesses to sell end-of-the day goods at a lower price. Perhaps you know of businesses in your area who would be willing to do so, too.
Food is wasted at every point of the supply chain. Produce that goes bad before it reaches supermarkets is discarded, uneaten food at restaurants is thrown away, and so are the mouldy fruits you have on your counter. Solving this problem requires your help. This is an opportunity for you, the youth of Hong Kong to come up with innovative solutions!