Aeon Stores slammed for inaction on food waste

Green group petitions to get Aeon Stores and CR Vanguard to donate their leftover products to food banks or recycling centres

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 July, 2013, 3:46am

Supermarket operator Aeon Stores has failed to come up with a credible plan to donate its discarded but still edible food to food banks, despite its pledge last year to do so, says a green group.

Friends of the Earth said its recent study on five of the city's biggest supermarket chains showed ParknShop, Wellcome and City'super were taking steps to implement measures to reduce food waste, but CR Vanguard and Aeon Stores had been slacking.

A report the group published last year showed the four largest chains discarded 87 tonnes of food daily. About one-third of it was still edible. City'super was excluded in last year's report.

"Aeon Stores has been 'researching' a plan for donating food for over a year since our report was released, but till today they have come up with nothing," said the group's environmental affairs officer, Celia Fung Sze-lai. "What's lacking isn't a plan but commitment." A check at an Aeon Stores supermarket in Kowloon revealed large quantities of food dumped in rubbish bins. They included packs of cooked noodles, fried rice, barbecue items, sushi and bottled drinks, many of which had only just reached their sell-by dates.

"The food in each bin would have been able to feed 10 impoverished people," Fung said.

Aside from Aeon Stores, CR Vanguard supermarkets, which are owned by the China Resources Group, also took a "passive approach", she said, adding that the chain carried out food donations programmes just three times in the past year.

Despite that, Fung said there were marked improvements in the past year among other supermarket chains. ParknShop, with 286 stores citywide, and Wellcome, with 270 stores, respectively donated 36 tonnes and 24 tonnes of food in the past year.

City'super had also been working with food banks to donate discarded food items such as bread and had also initiated food recycling programmes.

"We're seeing an impressive increase being donated to food banks by both ParknShop and Wellcome," said Fung.

"Our hope is that all supermarkets in Hong Kong can take on their societal responsibilities to reduce food waste.

"They could be doing so much more to feed people in need, but right now, they are just feeding themselves and the landfills," she said.

The group hopes to get at least 1,000 signatures on an online petition calling for Aeon Stores and CR Vanguard to donate edible food to food banks and send inedible food to recycling centres.

CR Vanguard spokeswoman Irene Chan said its supermarkets had been donating discarded food since last year through two programmes, Food Angel and Food for Good.

The quantity and frequency of its donations depended on "relevant circumstances", she said.

Aeon Stores spokeswoman Flora Lee said: "[Aeon] strives to seek a balance between food safety and being environmentally friendly.

"To ensure all groups and beneficiaries receive safe processed surplus food, we insist that we thoroughly investigate different programmes before making a commitment."