Government vows to cut Hong Kong's food waste by 10 per cent

New steering committee aims to 'terminate' excesses and also launch collection charges

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2012, 9:38am

The government hopes to cut Hong Kong's food waste by 10 per cent in three years.

Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing announced yesterday that a Food Wise Hong Kong Steering Committee had been formed to work out the strategies and measures needed to hit the 10 per cent target.

Led by Wong, it includes executives from catering chain Maxim's and Wellcome supermarket, food bank representatives, school principals, academics and green groups and will first meet on Thursday.

Wong also vowed to introduce municipal solid waste charges by 2016, and to consult the public next year on how to collect the fees.

He said the campaign aimed to reduce food waste at source. While he did not publicly give a timetable, sources said 2015 was the target date. "We are introducing the Food Wise campaign as a response to the chief executive's election platform to 'terminate' food waste," he said.

Wong added that the committee would work on changing household habits, establishing a code of practice for trades, and facilitating food donations to charity. It would also co-ordinate efforts by government and public bodies to set a good example.

Food waste accounts for about 40 per cent of the city's solid waste and the volume has been tipped to rise further as the economy grows. Last year more than 3,500 tonnes of food waste was dumped in landfills.

Greeners Action executive director Angus Ho Hon-wai, a member of the committee, said that while the 10 per cent target was achievable, he believed it could be tripled to 30 per cent in the right circumstances.

"It really depends on how much effort is put into it, how government departments work together, and whether the top leaders throw their full weight behind it," he said.

Friends of the Earth's senior environmental manager, Michelle Au Wing-tze, said countries like Germany and South Korea had started to tackle the source of food waste. "The Korean government is giving cash to the catering trade to set up buffet salad bars to replace the practice of offering different plates of appetisers individually," she said.

On the solid-waste charge, Wong said the levy would be set at a level that balanced the benefits of waste-reduction with the burden on the public.

"Time is needed to build up and discuss the details," he said.

A poll conducted by Friends of the Earth last month found that 65 per cent of about 1,000 respondents supported a waste-disposal fee. That is an increase of 13 percentage points since the group's previous poll, in March, when 51.7 per cent supported the "polluter pays" principle.