Hutchison Whampoa

Stores act to cut dumping of food

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:49pm

The two largest supermarket chains - ParknShop and Wellcome - have acted on criticism of their record on food waste, with one donating items to the needy and another in talks with a leading food bank.

But green campaigners say the two chains, which came under fire in May after they were discovered to be throwing away huge quantities of edible food, should do more.

In an industry first, ParknShop has partnered with Food Angel, a redistribution programme created by the Bo Charity Foundation in March last year.

Since early last month, eight ParknShop stores in Chai Wan have been donating up to 10kg of fruit, vegetables and bread every day to Food Angel, which turns them into hot meals to be handed out in Chai Wan and Sham Shui Po.

The pilot programme started at the Island Resort superstore in Siu Sai Wan.

ParknShop, Wellcome and the city's other main supermarket chains, Jusco and CR Vanguard, have faced criticism after Friends of the Earth conducted research that showed the stores were throwing out 29 tonnes of edible food every day instead of giving it to food banks.

A spokeswoman for ParknShop said yesterday there were no immediate plans to roll out the programme to all its stores - it has about 250 branches under its own name and other brands such as Taste and Great - because it needed to do more research.

The chain also limits the types of food donated, with staff choosing fruit and vegetables that are slightly damaged. Food that was thrown out because it was close to reaching its expiry date was not part of the programme, the spokeswoman confirmed. 'For other products, we are still studying the feasibility,' she said.

At present, the amount of food not yet past its sell-by date that is thrown out citywide would feed 48,000 families of three for a day.

The agreement includes a clause that protects ParknShop from liability in the event of anyone getting sick from a donated meal.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Wellcome said last night it was partnering with Feeding Hong Kong to launch a pilot food donation programme. She could not provide a start date but said the plan was in final stages of discussion.

A spokeswoman for Jusco said: 'After contacting more than 10 food banks and food waste recyclers, we are still studying a feasible way to handle the food waste.'

Friends of the Earth environmental affairs manager Michelle Au Wing-tsz hopes ParknShop's actions will spur other supermarket chains to donate their excess food. 'We urge Wellcome and Jusco to speed up their discussions,' Au said.

The group's research found each supermarket in Hong Kong throws out about 134kg of food every day, with one-third being edible goods.

Diana Man, Food Angel operations director, said it was also in talks with CR Vanguard on donations of food that were damaged in transit.

Robin Hwang, executive director of charity Foodlink, spoke about the city's wasteful habits at a talk yesterday on charities' impact and welcomed ParknShop's actions. 'It's a step in the right direction and hopefully, the other supermarkets will be more willing to donate,' she said.


The number of NGOs running food banks in the city

- 2,000 people used the St James' Settlement food bank in May