Can composting become a way of life in Hong Kong? How to deal with the myriad issues arising from composting—pests/ mice infestation, resistance from Incorporated Owners or households in installing composting bins? Or if you resist composting, how to reduce your use of household garbage bags in light of the new law to charge for household waste?
Robot reminding children to appreciate the environment. Still from “Castle in the Sky” movie by Hayao Miyazaki. Source: Vanguard Seattle and Artspace website: https://www.artspace.com/magazine/news_events/picks/from-ponyo-to-spirited-away-metrographs-mini-retrospective-of-hayao-miyazaki-the-worlds-greatest-55810
With the Hong Kong government starting to charge for household waste by pricing the size of garbage bags in 18 months’ time, there’s no time to waste in taking your food waste seriously. Hong Kong currently produces more than 3300 tonnes of food waste every day according to the Environmental Protection Department of the Hong Kong government. That’s about the weight of 660 fully grown African Bush elephants (each elephant having an average weight of 5 tonnes) per day.
HK has food waste the size of 660 of these African Bush elephants every day.
Source: The Nature Conservancy website: https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/animals-we-protect/african-bush-elephant/
What can we do to save the environment (and our pockets)?
Apart from the 3Rs (reuse, recycle, reduce), another idea is to compost your food waste so it doesn’t end up in the bin. Two of our Localhooders spent a day at a composting facility, Food for Good (website: https://www.foodforgood.org.hk/en/ ) which is a registered charity promoting redistribution of excess food and composting of food waste.
In Pic: Day at Food for Good-composting leftover food from meal boxes.
Food waste can come from private households, supermarkets, wet markets, restaurants, and food manufacturers. Food for Good receives food nearing expiry from supermarkets, surplus meals from private corporations and sometimes, even fish intestines from the wet markets. Food which only expire in more than 1 month’s time is quickly distributed to nearby public housing estates or at the Centre’s promotional events. Vegetables and meat are cooked and made into free meals distributed to the needy under a scheme funded by the Jockey Club.
As visitors that day, we were faced with carton upon carton of snacks donated by a supermarket which were unsold—gummies, biscuits, coffee beans, lollipops. Found a few of my family favourites in the items donated! As directed by the staff, we checked the expiry dates on all the snacks, sorted them into ones for onward donation to the needy (if expiring in more than 1 month’s time), unwrapped and recycled the packaging and placed the food in bags for composting. For leftover meal boxes, we carefully washed the boxes while composting the leftover food.
In Pic: Food for Good washing up facility
Back to the central question—can composting be a way of life? Judging from Hong Kong people’s frugal instincts (in evidence since the success of charging HK$0.5 per plastic bag), we would venture to say that yes, compost OR food shredding can become a way of life for the frugal and dedicated ones among us.
Community composting bins-sign up at https://www.hkcomposting.com
Source: HK Community Composting
We can’t blame the government for trying—for more than 7 years, the government has introduced strategies for food waste management. It aims to increase initiatives to set to reduce food waste in Hong Kong by 40% in 2022. The main strategies set by the city government for food waste management are:
· Encouraging people to choose food portions wisely and not to waste food
· Food Donation by collecting unsold food or leftover food from private companies and donating them to NGOs and charities
· Supporting NGOs to treat food waste
· Turning waste into energy at the O Park
In Pic: O Park is open to public with guided tour of the composting facility. Source: O Park website www.opark.gov.hk
In terms of turning waste into energy, the O Park in South Lantau is a composting facility which can digest food waste into biogas and compost. The biogas is turned into electricity to power up the O Park and the compost is used for gardening and farming. Large corporations can sign up at the O Park’s website to join and sponsor food waste. Theme parks, universities, hotels, restaurants and hospitals etc are sponsoring organisations for the O Park.
Without us knowing it, composting has become a quiet way of life for corporations to treat their food waste. Ordinary households have yet to get in on the act, especially with residential building managements putting composting schemes on hold due to covid. Guess it’s time to look into food shredding.