Secret Warrior against waste
Tsang Sik operates undercover - but he's no police officer. His latest secret mission was to expose how much edible food is being dumped by one of the major supermarket chains.
In six weeks working for ParknShop, every day he saw food being dumped before its expiry date - food that could have gone to the needy. His research helped Friends of the Earth conclude that 29 tonnes of edible food is dumped by supermarkets each day.
Tsang refuses to give his real name or have his photograph taken as he plans to conduct more undercover missions for the group.
Although staff had been reluctant to discuss the exact details of the food dumping, what Tsang saw led him to believe that there were hidden guidelines for supermarket workers to dispose of food before it had to be taken off the shelves.
'They don't actually dump food after the supermarket closes. It is an ongoing and organised task beginning right after the shop opens in the morning,' the young man recruited by the green group to carry out the investigation said.
'They also dump food even before it reaches its expiry date. I have seen a trash bag half loaded with about 50 packs of cooked food a few hours before their expiration.'
The food being dumped included products from the bakery and fresh fruit, which are removed when they no longer look fresh and appealing, as well as pre-packaged food. It remains unclear why the supermarket dumped produce that was not past its sell-by date.
Tsang said some of his colleagues had privately admitted that they did not support the dumping of food. But they did not speak out for fear of punishment by their employer.
'When asked about the dumped food, many would say the food has either expired or had gone bad and was not suitable for eating.'
The Friends of the Earth investigation also involved visits to refuse collection points for supermarkets owned by ParknShop and its rivals Wellcome, CR Vanguard and Jusco, which together have a 53 per cent share of the market.
A spokeswoman for ParknShop said it would conduct an investigation and appealed to the green group to provide more evidence. The supermarket giant said dumping food it could sell was not a logical approach to business.
'All companies in Hong Kong, including ParknShop, control their stock very carefully and don't dump anything recklessly, because wastage means a cost to business,' the spokeswoman said.
Asked whether the company would consider donating edible food to the needy, ParknShop said it would have to carefully study the feasibility of such a scheme, including any potential legal liability in cases of food poisoning and the ability of food banks to manage food hygiene.
Michelle Au Wing-tze, senior environmental manager of Friends of the Earth, said ParknShop had been in touch with the group to seek more information about food donation programmes, which she believed was a positive sign.
The group is now trying to connect supermarkets with food banks for the transfer of food.
It has been estimated that this many tonnes of food, about one-third of global food production, are lost or wasted annually