Eyes on PolyU

Reducing food waste

The coronavirus pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of modern society. Hong Kong, like many other places, faces an upsurge in locally infected cases. The Government has put in place the most stringent measures ever in enforcing social distancing, suspension of on-campus activities, and restaurants are ordered to offer takeaway services and deliveries instead of dine-in services. As a result, consumers and restaurants have become more dependent on single-use plastic bags, containers, and utensils. While we should do whatever we can to curb the skyrocketing plastic pollution, we should also draw our attention to another issue – the problem of food waste and how this affects us and the city in a time of pandemic.

The collective response to the pandemic is terrifying. Panic buying seems to be here with many people. They tend to buy so much to fill up their fridge, but there’s no way they can finish everything they have bought. With increasing takeaway orders and food deliveries, we also see more leftovers. Some people are concerned that more food waste will be produced in 2020 than in previous years.

 Food waste is so common

At present, most of Hong Kong’s food waste is disposed of at landfills together with other municipal solid waste. This practice is not sustainable and is environmentally undesirable as it depletes the limited landfill space. The Government has been adopting a multi-pronged approach to tackle the problem and introduced promotional campaigns and education programs to incite active participation from the community to alleviate the food waste problem.

Leading by example, PolyU is working to reduce food waste at all levels. A proper Waste Management Policy is in effect and made transparent to all which elaborates on the principles and the proper practices in the handling of wastes. The University also actively educates the campus community and disseminates related messages on tackling food waste through effective publicity channels, trainings and activities for different stakeholders. Signages and stickers are conspicuously displayed in campus catering outlets to remind diners about the need to reduce food waste.

Table stickers remind campus diners to reduce food waste

Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, we need to work together to reduce food waste. Restaurants can take this as a unique opportunity to enhance business processes and make changes to their food handling, purchasing, and warehousing logistics to avoid overbuying. As consumers, we can also offer our hand by taking a more serious attitude towards food waste. We should buy only what we need and there is no need to stock up fresh ingredients in our kitchen. We should avoid excessive portions with our takeaways, and do not generate leftovers that ended up in our rubbish bins. Limiting food going to waste is so important and should be woven into ‘the new normal’.

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