Hutchison Whampoa

Anger over mass food waste

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Despite reports of rising demand for handouts at food banks, Hong Kong's four supermarket chains throw out 29 tonnes of edible food every day, a green group says.

The discarded food would be enough to feed 48,000 three-person families.

'These supermarket chains have the ability and the responsibility to donate and recycle food waste,' said Michelle Au Wing-tsz, deputy environmental manager of Friends of the Earth. She said the four companies the group investigated - ParknShop, Wellcome, CR Vanguard and Jusco - held a 53 per cent share of Hong Kong's retail sector.

Au's team visited waste collection points for five outlets of the four chains from March to May. Each store disposed of an average of 135kg of food a day. One-third of the waste - 45kg - had not passed its expiry dates.

As the chains have 650 shops in Hong Kong, the group estimates that the total amount of wasted food was about 87 tonnes. About 29 tonnes of that was still edible.

Of the food that had been dumped, 47 per cent was vegetables, some still fresh and with packaging intact, Au said. Fresh fruit was also found, as were loaves of bread that were still five days away from their sell-by date.

Celia Fung Sze-lai, the group's environmental affairs officer, said water or sometimes bleach was poured over some discarded food to stop scavengers from taking it home. 'This is wasteful and unscrupulous,' she said.

The group urged the government to bring in waste disposal fees and a landfill ban on food waste. It also urged supermarkets to donate edible items to food banks or charity groups. Food past expiry dates could be turned into compost or animal feed, it added.

St James' Settlement People's Food Bank service manager Connie Ng Man-ying said a system was needed to link those disposing food with those collecting it. At present, the food bank mainly receives food from individual donors.

Ng said the 29 tonnes of food could readily feed more than 48,000 three-person households for a day. 'Though vegetables can only be kept for a few days, we believe we would be able to receive and distribute all 29 tonnes,' she said.