More than 1,000 people have signed a Friends of the Earth petition demanding the city's major supermarket chains change their policies on food waste.
The environmental organisation launched the petition two weeks ago to call for better co-ordination in re-directing mountains of edible food to the hungry instead of the rubbish tip. The action followed a study by the group that concluded that 29 tonnes of edible food was being tossed out every day by supermarkets.
Over several months, the study checked refuse collection points for ParknShop, Wellcome, CR Vanguard and Jusco, which together have a 53 per cent share of the market. It enlisted the secret help of a ParknShop employee who followed first-hand the processes of disposing of cooked food, baked goods and fresh fruit.
Senior environmental manager Michelle Au Wing-tsz said the initial response from the supermarkets had been good but it could simply be a public relations exercise as no concrete commitment had been made to improve the waste situation
A spokeswoman for ParknShop said the chain had contacted a few food banks but it needed to carry out feasibility studies before it could make any donations. Issues such as food poisoning and the ability of food banks to ensure food hygiene had to be investigated, she said.
A Wellcome spokeswoman said the company tried to reduce its food waste across its 272 stores by estimating stock demand, offering discounts on food about to expire and returning expired items to suppliers.
Jusco said it was analysing how food banks worked before making any commitments. A spokeswoman said the company planned to meet food banks later this month to talk about possible donation schemes.
Mountains of food are also dumped in the United States.
US filmmaker Jeremy Seifert made a documentary called Dive! to highlight the problem. He followed a group of 'dumpster divers' who take food from supermarket dumpsters and eat it. 'The situation in Hong Kong resembles the situation here in the US,' Seifert said. 'Excess wealth breeds wastefulness, and an affluent society develops the same bad habits as spoiled rich children.'
Seifert said it was a lack of co-ordination between food banks and supermarkets that led to this waste and a better system was needed to connect the two. 'Broken systems can't be ignored because they threaten to undo the very fabric of society and leave us all broken,' he said.
The amount in HK dollars an adult must spend daily to maintain a balanced diet, Oxfam says. But low-income families can afford only half that