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Food Waste

CTA Letter on managing municipal solid waste and Reduction and recycling of food waste

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Food waste sickens auditor

The Audit Commission slammed the Environment Bureau for taking piecemeal action in controlling food waste, some 1.18 million tonnes of which were disposed in landfills in 2013, up 13 percent from 2004.

The Correctional Services Department and Hospital Authority were among the worst wasters of food.

The commission estimated that an average patient would waste 0.31 kilograms of food each day based on records from all 38 public hospitals from July to August.

A Hospital Authority spokesman said: “In fact, the quantity of food waste in public hospitals has seen a decreasing trend in recent years with the launching of a series of measures such as the save-rice program, adjusting the quantity of food supply to individual patients basing on need.”

He said the authority will “seriously consider” the audit recommendation of periodically publishing food-waste quantity.

Meanwhile, the audit report also pointed out that the HK$16 million Kowloon Bay Pilot Composting Plant may only handle a quarter of the food waste that the government claimed.

The Environment Bureau boasted in 2009 that the plan could handle up to four tonnes of food waste a day, but the audit found that it only handles 0.89 tonnes daily since it was put into use in 2008 up to June this year.

The commission also found that a third of vacant school premises have not been returned to the government even though they have been idle for an average of 11 years, with one school unused for over 35 years.

Another school on a 4,000-square-meter site in Tai Po, vacant since 1996, has not been reused, after the Lands Department was told in a phone call that the building was iconic and serves as a village memorial.

Of 234 vacant school premises in the Education Bureau database, 105 were not being used as of April 30 this year, 102 were being used and 27 had been or would be demolished for housing or other developments.

Of the 105 idle ex-schools, 29 were under the bureau’s purview. Twelve had been allocated for school use but had been idle for up to 11.6 years.

Seventy-three vacant ex-premises are under the Lands Department, among which is a school in the New Territories left idle for 35.6 years.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen described the vacant school campuses as “a pitiful waste.”

Ip added: “The Education Bureau and the government have put the most precious and limited resource in Hong Kong land into waste.”

Rubbish effort: Hong Kong environment bureau slammed for slow work on food waste disposal

Audit Commission calls for more timely action as landfills face increased pressure

Government auditors have given the Environment Bureau a grilling for not taking timely action to address problems arising from food waste disposal, which has risen 13 per cent over the last decade, and told it to be more accurate when reporting project information in the future.

The Audit Commission criticised the government’s “piecemeal” efforts to solve find ways to dispose food waste and for taking too long to implement a charging scheme for municipal solid waste that was already eight years behind the original target.

The bureau was also slammed for overstating the treatment quantity of a food waste pilot plant in Kowloon Bay and a significant project cost underestimation for phase one of an organic waste treatment facility in Lantau Island. The latter ultimately led to a delay in tendering and thus its commissioning, adding four more years of pressure to local landfills.

A major problem seemed to be a lack of public and private sector interest in the waste reduction campaigns, such as the Food Wise Charter in which only four of 12 invited government departments ended up taking part as of June.

Government bodies such as the Correction Services Department and Hospital Authority also saw some of their institutions generating high quantities of food waste per day.

The amount of food waste per capita disposed at the city’s prison facilities, for example, ranged from 0.02 to 1.61kg, meaning some institutions had generated an even higher per capita disposal rate than the city’s per capita average for municipal solid waste.

Some of the authority’s hospitals such as Grantham Hospital and Kowloon Hospital were also showing a wide range of high food waste generation per inpatient, between 0.06 and 0.58kg daily.

The watchdog urged the bureau to strengthen efforts to encourage higher participation in its food waste recycling and reduction schemes and to speed up implementation of a waste charge, which would help reduce some 324 tonnes of food waste per day.

“Audit has recommended that the pertinent bureau’s [sic] and departments should strengthen efforts in implementing the municipal solid waste charging scheme and Food Wise Campaign, and make improvements in related areas,” the report read.

It also urged the bureau to “make reasonable cost estimates in implementing a works project in future so the government could earmark sufficient funding”.

The city generated 5.49 million tones of municipal solid waste in 2013, of which two thirds were disposed of at landfills and the rest recovered for recycling. About 25 per cent of all municipal solid waste is food waste.
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Director of Audit’s letter to the President of the Legislative Council

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Reduction and recycling of Hong Kong food waste

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David Suzuki: Food Waste Is a Crime Against the Planet

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family to appreciate the bounty of the fall harvest. Eating is both a highly social and personal part of our lives and food preferences can even make for lively dinner table conversations.

In North America we tend to focus on how food is grown and harvested. Consumers face a myriad of labels when they shop for Thanksgiving feasts—organic, free range, cage-free, Marine Stewardship Council, fair trade, non-GMO, vegetarian-fed and locally grown among them. From a sustainability point of view, though, the most important question is missing from these labels: Will this food be eaten or will it end up contributing to the world’s growing food-wasteproblem?

We’re hearing a lot about food waste lately. Every year a staggering one-third—1.3 billion tons—of the world’s food is wasted after it has been harvested: 45 percent of fruit and vegetables, 35 percent of fish and seafood, 30 percent of cereals, 20 percent of dairy products and 20 percent of meat. Food waste ends up in landfills, increasing methane emissions and contributing significantly to climate change. A recent study found Americans waste close to US$200 billion on uneaten food while Canadians throw away $31 billion.

These figures only account for 29 percent of the full cost of waste. They don’t include factors such as labor, fuel to transport goods to global markets, inefficiency losses from feed choices used to produce meat and fish or food left unharvested. As methodologies are improved and accounting becomes more inclusive, we’re likely to find even higher waste figures. Dozens of studies across many countries with different methodologies not only confirm the increase in food waste but suggest food waste is even higher and on the rise. In Canada, food waste cost estimates increased from $27 billion to $31 billion between 2010 and 2014.

In a world where one in nine people doesn’t get enough to eat—many of them children—this is unconscionable. According to the World Food Program, poor nutrition kills 3.1 million children under the age of five every year. It’s the cause of almost half of child deaths in that age range. When it comes to feeding the world, distribution and waste appear to be greater problems than population. And yet we continue to destroy more forests, drain more wetlands and deplete the oceans of fish to meet the needs of a growing world population.

Not only that, the monumental economic losses from food waste represent money that could be used to fund much-needed social and environmental programs. Money lost in North America would cover most of Canada’s federal budget. Food waste in Metro Vancouver homes adds about $700 a year to a household’s grocery bill.

Every morsel of food wasted represents unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural lands and disruptions to marine food webs. Based on 2007 data, the UN estimates that the equivalent of 3.3 gigatons of CO2 emissions globally can be attributed to food waste. Canada’s total emissions, in comparison, are about 0.7 gigatons. If food waste were a nation, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter.

We need to tackle food waste at all levels, from international campaigns to individual consumption habits. In September, the UN agreed to an ambitious global goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030 as both an environmental and humanitarian imperative. Earlier this year, Metro Vancouver joined the international effort Love Food Hate Waste to meet municipal waste goals and encourage individual behavioral change. A similar UK campaign led to a 21 percent cut in food waste over five years. Grocery stores in France and other countries are offering discounts for misshapen produce under an “ugly fruits and vegetables” campaign. Businesses are using audits to map out where food waste is affecting bottom lines.

Food waste is a crime against the planet and the life it supports. Reducing it not only addresses food insecurity, it benefits everyone. This Thanksgiving dinner, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, locavore or pescetarian, plan for a zero-food-waste meal. Show thanks for ecosystems, growers and harvesters by buying only what you will eat and eating all that you buy.

We should all try to cut back on food waste

SCMP Letters to the Editor

All Hongkongers will have enjoyed traditional food during the Lunar New Year, such as turnip cakes, rice cakes, braised vegetables and red fermented beancurd.

All these feasts will have generated a substantial amount of food waste.

We all need to reflect on the part we play in discarding so much food. How many of us, during our festive feasts, left our plates empty?

With my family, I ate poon choi on the first and second days of the new year. We could not finish it all, but instead of throwing it away kept it as leftovers.

As well as trying to use leftover food at home, when we’re out, we should order less food. And if it is a set meal, for example, in a Chinese restaurant with a lot of different dishes, you can go without rice so you have room for other dishes.

There is a Chinese saying, “May you always get more than you wish for”. And it has long been a Chinese tradition to order more food than you will need to eat.

This is a bad habit and we need to change attitudes. We should only order what we need and not throw away the food that we do not eat.

Chan Yue-ching, Kowloon Tong

Five new treatment plants needed to achieve food waste reduction target

New food treatment centres aimed at helping cut organic trash by 40 per cent in nine years could save company’s rubbish disposal fees

Businesses may be able to save on rubbish disposal fees from 2016 when the first of two food-waste treatment centres dedicated for their use opens as part of a nine-year war on food waste.

The plan of action will also target food waste at source and sets the “aggressive” goal of reducing the amount of food thrown away by 40 per cent – more than 1,440 tonnes per day – by 2022 compared with 2011, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing announced yesterday.

But the plan will not eliminate the need for bigger landfills or incinerators. “This infrastructure is necessary and is like our daily necessities, similar to other facilities such as power plants,” he said.

Wong’s 2014-22 food-waste plan sets out the urgency of tackling the city’s shrinking landfills, where food waste accounts for more than a third of the rubbish.

Each Hongkonger dumps 130kg of food waste every year, double those of people in Seoul and Taipei, the plan says.

The goal will be partially met by a network of organic-waste treatment centres – Siu Ho Wan on northern Lantau, Sha Ling in North District and a third one in Shek Kong, scheduled to start operations in 2016, 2017 and 2021, respectively.

When that happens, businesses may achieve savings by separating their food waste from other rubbish, for which a collection and disposal fee is payable.

The three plants will offer a combined daily capacity of treating 800 tonnes of food waste, or about 22 per cent of the 3,600 tonnes dumped daily in 2011 – the base year used for official comparison.

On top of those facilities, rubbish disposal charges, tentatively to be introduced in 2016 across the board, are aimed at cutting food waste by 320 tonnes or so, while voluntary programmes to reduce waste at source will shave off another 360 tonnes.

Wong said he hoped to build two more treatment centres beyond 2022, possibly in urban areas. Suitable sites were being identified, he said.

The Siu Ho Wan and Sha Ling centres will cater to the business sector initially. Officials are undecided if the plants should charge any gate fees.

Celia Fung Sze-lai, from Friends of the Earth, said the arrangement favoured businesses at the expense of households, which would be exposed to the full impact of the looming rubbish disposal charge.

“I don’t understand why domestic households, which produce the bulk of the food waste, will have no access to the centres after the rubbish disposal charge comes into force by 2016. The centres should cater for all.”

Fung said incentives should be offered to support privately run treatment centres in order to help households or housing estates that were willing to separate food waste.

Initial consultation findings indicate businesses will probably face “weight-based” fees.

Wong said there was a principle to make polluters pay.

He urged people to change their lifestyles. “Many cities improve their waste infrastructure only after waste charging is introduced,” he said.

Wong said they would run a study next year on how best to collect and transport food waste.

Elvis Au Wai-kwong, assistant director of environmental protection, said businesses tended to separate their rubbish better. The Shek Kong plant would cater for households when it came on stream in 2021, he said.

World Green Organisation’s William Yu Yuen-ping suggested developing more district-based centres to minimise the need for long-distance rubbish transfer.


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New offer proposes zero waste, zero pollution and zero to landfill

04 December, 2014

Howard Winn

Given the controversy surrounding the proposed Shek Kwu Chau incinerator and extensions to the landfills, you would think a proposal that involved zero waste, zero pollution and zero waste to landfill would be of interest to the government and the public at large.

Zero Waste Smart City Resources Association says it can do this by the end of 2018 and is today sending copies of the proposal it sent to the government to the district councils and legislative councillors. Furthermore, Zero Waste chief executive Peter Reid says his company’s proposals would obviate the need to extend the landfills since there would be no waste left to send.

At the same time there would be no waste for the mega incinerator, organic waste treatment plants, hazardous waste incinerator, or even the sewage sludge incinerator.

The approach views “waste” as a resource, much of which can be recycled on a commercial basis. The government’s approach assumes waste is useless and is proposing to incinerate it, a process which produces up to a third by weight in toxic waste which has to be sent to landfill.

The zero-waste scheme envisages that the waste will be sorted within Hong Kong’s 18 districts using advanced proven digital waste separation technologies and waste applications at no charge to households. The food and green waste would also be dealt with at district level using anaerobic digestion plants, which would produce fertiliser and fish food. Recyclables would also be extracted at this stage. The remaining waste after this would be sent to a plasma vapourisation closed-cycle combined power and heat plant to be built at the Tai Po Industrial estate or the Science and Technology Park.

This would produce syngas to be used in the production of electricity or fed into the gas network. Reid believes his proposal can achieve a 12.5 per cent net return on investment. This stands in stark contrast to the government proposals which will cost about HK$60 billion to build and operate.