Restaurants could levy charge for people who waste food

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 4:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 4:57pm

I agree with Abby Luk that we tend to order too many dishes in restaurants that we cannot possibly finish, especially when we have a large group of people dining with us (“We can all help to reduce food waste in the city”, March 1).

During festive seasons and other public holidays, buffets are very popular in restaurants in Hong Kong. Again, many diners put more food on their plates than they will actually eat.

In this regard, perhaps we can learn from a policy I came across in the UK.

I lived in London for 10 years and a Chinese restaurant offering buffet-style lunches imposed a penalty charge for each patron who left a plate of unfinished food. This acted as a reminder of the effort by farmers that goes into growing rice.

At first, they experienced a slight drop in business, because people were not used to the concept. However, eventually they became accustomed to the policy, that the more food they wasted the higher the penalty.

The habit of wasting food stopped and the restaurant was able to remove these penalties.

Hong Kong restaurants could adopt this measure for a trial period, say three to six months, and it could be introduced in smaller restaurants where it is easier to manage and could be more effectively monitored. It could then be extended to larger restaurants on Hong Kong Island.

It is also important to educate restaurant owners and staff to change their attitude about discarding food.

They seem to think that once food passes the “best before” date on the label it must be thrown out. However, a lot of foods, except for some produce such as eggs, are still safe to use after the “best before” date.

This is more about quality than a food safety issue. The products are often still perfectly safe to eat if it is only a few days past the date.

Given the poor track record Hong Kong has compared with other developed cities and countries, it should really tackle this issue head-on.

Eunice Li Dan-yue, Singapore