Updated: Mar 14, 2019
According to Food Waste Reduction Good Practice Guide for Hotel Sector, about 3,600 tonnes of food waste was dumped in the landfills daily in Hong Kong in 2011. This is the equivalent weight of 300 double-decker buses and accounts for 40% of Hong Kong’s municipal solid waste. Food waste leads to a waste of resources, used to not only produce the food but also to dispose of the food.
How can the hospitality industry help?
The Food Waste Reduction Good Practice Guide for Hotel Sector lists out eight tips for the hospitality industry to help reduce food waste from the source, and reuse and recycle surplus food:
Plan a policy: Develop food waste management policy with clear objectives, procedures, and goals (which includes purchasing the right amount of food for use, inspecting the food upon delivery, and designing a menu with the right portions).
Storage: Ensure that food is properly managed and stored, whether that be in a stock room or refrigerator, and that all ingredients taken out is used first.
Handle: Make good use of food ingredients (e.g. avoid over-trimming during preparation and spoiling of ingredients) and ensure that surplus food is put to use.
Donation: Identify surplus food before spoilage and donate any surplus food when necessary to a food bank or charitable organization.
Recycling: Identify recyclable and non-recyclable food waste.
Training and Education: Provide appropriate training with best practices on food waste management and get employees involved in the process.
Monitoring and Audit: Establish an internal audit team and audit food waste system to monitor where most food waste comes from to improve processes.
Partnership: With with the government and non-governmental organizations to raise awareness and minimize food waste generation.
How can the restaurant industry help?
The restaurant industry is one of the biggest contributors to food waste, whether that be from the food waste generated from creating food for customers or from customers leaving food on their plate due to portion sizing. Food waste policy making and efforts will not only minimize the food sent to landfills but also help restaurants monetarily.
Champions12.3's Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Restaurant reports about the impact of food waste reduction in restaurants. A review of 114 restaurants across 12 countries found that nearly every site achieved a positive return, with the average restaurant saving US$7 for every US$1 invested in reducing kitchen food waste.
The report lists out five tips for how restaurants can help reduce its wastage:
Measure: Monitor progress of where "food waste inventory" is generated and how much of it is generated.
Engage staff: Guide staff in learning how to help prevent food waste.
Reduce overproduction: Incorporate production techniques to avoid overproduction (avoid techniques such as batch cooking, casserole trays, buffets).
Rethink inventory and purchasing practices: Examine current inventory management and understand how much of it is used and how often to purchase it.
Repurpose excess food: Learn to repurpose extra food ingredients and potential wasted food.
How can you help reduce food waste at home?
As an individual, you can also make an impact on reducing your own food waste at home. The United States Environmental Protection Agency advises on how you can do your part:
Make a list and make reasonable purchases. How are you planning for the week or month? What do you need, and what do you already have? Asking the right questions can help you make the right decisions to buy what you expect to use up.
Make sure you do not overbuy and bear in mind the perishability of food ingredients such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Knowing how to properly store your produce and leftover food will ensure that your food will stay fresh for longer.
Prepare perishable foods soon after shopping. It will be easier to heat up meals or snacks later in the week, saving time, effort, and money. Also learn how to prepare, cook, and store your food in the freezer for later use, saving you both time and money.
Be mindful of the produce and leftover food that you already have in your fridge and avoid buying more without using them up. You’ll waste less and may even find a new favorite dish.
Give food waste a second life
Where food waste is deemed unsafe or in any way inappropriate to be redistributed for human consumption, it is recycled into biogas or useful products. Food waste recycling itself can be done in different ways.
A first category includes using food waste for animal feed, notably for fish feed and pig feed. In Hong Kong, there is one company focusing on processing and transforming food waste into fish feed granules.
Kowloon Biotechnology works with the hotel industry, especially with three hotels: Sheraton Hong Kong Hotels & Towers, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, and InterContinental Hong Kong. Regarding pig feed, there is one NGO working on creating pig feed from food waste, among other projects. For this purpose, the Hong Kong Organic Waste Recycling Centre, an organic waste management consulting firm, sorts food waste into two categories: 1) food waste with high nutritional value intended for pig feed, and 2) food waste with low nutritional value that is used for composting.
Composting can be done at an individual scale. In Hong Kong, there are initiatives like in the housing complex Chi Fu Fa Yuen (south of Kennedy Town on Hong Kong island) to enable residents to set up a compost and then use the fertilizer for their own flower and vegetable gardens.
At a bigger scale, the Hong Kong Organic Waste Recycling Centre, an organic waste management consulting firm, provides companies with assistance for food waste collection and helping them reduce their food waste. They work with businesses in the hotel and catering industry such as Sheraton Hong Kong Hotels & Towers, Eaton Hong Kong, fast food chain Fairwood, as well as with schools and housing estates. They also provide on-site food waste processor to buy or to rent, and can help companies install biotechnology compost systems.
The fermentation of organic food waste creates methane gas because of the absence of oxygen, but this potent greenhouse gas can be used in two different ways: 1) purified to be used for cars or for gas supply by injecting it into the conventional gas network, or 2) burned to generate heat and electricity (gas combustion).
In Hong Kong, the Environmental Protection Department (EDP) is committed to building biogas facilities, known as Organic Resources Recovery Centre (ORRC). As of today, there is the ORRC Phase 1 located in Siu Hu Wan on Lantau island, which is operational, and which can process 200 tons of food waste per day. The ORRC phase 1 treats food waste generated by the C&I sector and transforms it into biogas as well as fertilizer. The treated biogas is combusted to generate electricity, used for the facility itself and exported to the grid, providing power to 3,000 households. The mature compost is used for landscaping and agricultural applications.
Currently, only 4% of organic waste is being recycled in Hong Kong. Everyone has the responsibility in food waste reduction, whether on a personal level with better inventory taking, or on a macro-level working with the government and non-governmental organizations to promote awareness on policies that can minimize food waste. Ultimately, it's critical to the world's efforts in zero-waste and reaching sustainable goals.