16 October 2018
Most of the food waste generated in schools ends up in landfills. Photo: Assianir via Wikimedia Commons.
Most of the food waste generated in schools ends up in landfills. Photo: Assianir via Wikimedia Commons.

Food containers collected from schools end up in landfills

Students in the more than 400 primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong take their lunch in disposable food containers, most of which are not recycled but discarded as waste, thereby contributing to environmental degradation in the city.

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) issued guidelines on how to promote “green lunch” in schools. The program seeks to encourage schools to reduce their generation of food waste and disposable food containers, which number hundreds of thousands per day.

To find out whether lunchbox providers are following these guidelines, Apple Daily reporters recently conducted an investigation.

It found that Hong Kong Gourmet Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Vitasoy International Holdings Ltd. (00345.HK) and one of the city’s leading lunchbox providers, just threw the food containers along with food waste in large trash cans at its central kitchen in Yuen Long after collecting them from schools.

The trash cans were then transported to the North West New Territories Refuse Transfer Station, with their contents ending up in landfills.

Such a practice was clearly against pledges the company made to schools for the sake of environmental protection. It also raised concerns that other lunchbox providers might have been doing the same.

While offering its apology, Hong Kong Gourmet said it has been resorting to the practice because the planned Organic Resources Recovery Centre at Siu Ho Wan in North Lantau failed to start operations on time.

It promised to hire new recyclers to improve the situation, adding that nearly half the food containers and eating tools it uses are recyclable.

The EPD urged schools to require in the contracts they signed with lunchbox providers that used disposable food containers, eating implements and food waste be dealt with in environment-friendly ways and to make sure the guidelines are strictly followed.

Meanwhile, it also admitted that the new organic resources recovery center will not be open until the first quarter next year due to delays in the installation of large electric machines.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, director of environmental advocacy at The Green Earth, criticized the company for trying to shirk its responsibility since the EcoPark in Tuen Mun can also handle collected food waste in spite of the delays.

Chu called on large companies to bear more social responsibilities as a response to the society’s growing awareness of the need to reduce food waste.

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