Govt efforts to reduce food waste inadequate, audit report says

November 19, 2015 11:08
Wong Kam-sing (inset) says waste treatment facilities at Siu Ho Wan will begin operations in 2017 as planned. Photos: CNSA,

Hong Kong’s Audit Commission says the Environmental Protection Department's piecemeal actions in the past few years have proved insufficient to effectively reduce food waste in the city, Ming Pao Daily reported Thursday,

It urged the EPD to be more aggressive, so as to be able to meet the goal it set last year.

In its Food Waste Plan for Hong Kong 2014-2022, the EPD says it aims to adopt a multipronged approach to achieving the target of reducing food waste disposal by 40 per cent by 2022.

It urged the whole community to join hands to attain the target.

But the commission said in an audit report published Wednesday that the fact that daily food waste generated in Hong Kong rose 15 percent from 10 years ago to more than 3,600 tonnes last year showed that the EPD’s efforts were insufficient.

For one thing, the commission said, the EPD’s Food Wise Charter, which it launched in 2013 to encourage the city’s businesses and organizations to adopt measures to reduce the generation of food waste, was initially signed by only four of the 12 government departments invited to do so, before six others signed this year.

The Housing Department and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, which claim they are unable to set their own targets for food waste reduction, have not signed yet, suggesting that the EPD isn't pushing hard enough in getting public agencies to make themselves an example in reducing food waste, the report said.

In addition, the commission said, the EPD has overestimated the amount of waste recycled in the city for years, which could drastically diminish the effectiveness of the government's waste management program.

The report said the Kowloon Bay composting plant for food waste handled 0.89 tonnes a day on average between 2008 and 2015, just 22 percent of the maximum capacity of four tonnes estimated by the EPD.

Moreover, the EPD’s failed public tender to build waste treatment facilities at Siu Ho Wan in northern Lantau Island has led to 292,000 tonnes of food waste having been piled up at landfills, a situation that the commission said could have been avoided if not for the EPD’s serious underestimation of the construction costs.

Promising that the Siu Ho Wan plant will begin operations in 2017 as planned, Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing said he acknowledged the problems and challenges, which will be dealt with through joint efforts between the government and private businesses.

Meanwhile, some environmental groups said any waste reduction measure will definitely be less effective than expected if charging for waste generation is not implemented.

- Contact us at [email protected]