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Restaurant customers have role to play in curbing food waste

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Restaurant customers have role to play in curbing food waste

By Lam Shun-wa and Kacee Ting Wong

Our survival depends on food, but our survival is also indirectly threatened by food waste. The inability of local landfills to provide a sustainable solution to the food-waste problem has dragged the problem of culinary abundance to the edge of despair.

At stake is not only the responsibility of the food and beverage industry to take effective steps to reduce food waste and minimize its negative impact on the environment, but also the responsibility of everyone to avoid ordering more food than they want or need on their plate.

According to the Environment Protection Department (EPD), most of Hong Kong’s food waste is disposed of at landfills together with other municipal solid waste (MSW). In 2020, some 10,809 metric tons of MSW was dumped at landfills each day. Of this, about 3,255 tons (30 percent) was food waste, constituting the largest MSW category. The latest figures, from 2021, indicate that food waste still constitutes 30 percent of solid rubbish sent to landfill each day.

In the first half of the 20th century, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government was able to use household waste as a resource for land reclamation. However, by the late 1950s, the Urban Council came to realize that land reclamation was no longer a sustainable waste management system. This was because Hong Kong had entered an era of postwar

industrialization and an environmentally harmful mixture of solid waste had begun to replace organic waste (Nele Fabian and Loretta Ieng Tak Lou, The Struggle for Sustainable Waste Management in Hong Kong: 1950s -2010s, in Worldwide Waste Journal).

Currently, Hong Kong has three strategic landfills in use, all in the New Territories. The fact that our existing landfills are almost full has catapulted the problem of food waste to the forefront of media coverage. Since landfill gas is harmful to human health and toxic to the environment, the government has spent vast resources on landfill gas management. For example, leachate, which is a major source of contamination, is treated using landfill gas to provide heat. Strict criteria are specified by the EPD to ensure that the treatment is safe and free from harmful release.

There is a growing recognition that the food and beverage industry should focus on waste reduction. Being a senior executive chef, one of the co-authors of this article has previously tried to employ the best cooking and plate-presenting techniques to create physically attractive food with the perfect balance of flavor combinations to persuade customers to order more than they can consume. Unable to finish all the ordered food, these spoiled customers created leftovers and added fuel to the fire of food wastage. But a chef has to discharge his duty by creating the best food for customers.

Instead of putting the blame on the chef, customers should resist the above temptation and say no to excessive and unnecessary ordering. Some customers refuse to return home with the leftovers because they are afraid of losing face in front of their guests and waiters. The plea for environmentally friendly dining habits should no longer fall on stony ground. The EPD should launch an educational campaign to promote proper dining habits.

In fact, some top restaurants and bars in Hong Kong are taking eco-steps in the right direction, with chefs and bartenders finding innovative ways to reduce and reuse ingredients. Some have even earned Michelin Green Stars for these efforts. For instance, the Penicillin bar deserves credit for launching a new menu starring 10 cocktails all made with a zero-waste approach.

Donating surplus food to charitable organizations offers a win-win solution to the food-waste problem. Owners of supermarkets, restaurants, fast-food chains and bars should have their hearts in the right place by helping the poor and needy people in the city. Food Angel has earned a reputation for serving the poor by collecting surplus food from these outlets. With the support of volunteers, Food Angel has consistently provided free meals for the less well-off.

It is worthy of note that the EPD launched a large-scale pilot program on food waste collection in 2021, focusing on food waste generated from the private (commercial and industrial sectors) and public premises. Source-separated food waste collected under the program will be transformed into energy, and compost as a byproduct at O.Park1 on Lantau Island. O.Park1, which is the first organic resources recovery center in Hong Kong, opened at Siu Ho Wan in 2018. It operates as a sustainable alternative to landfills and creates biogas by breaking down waste to generate fuel for power generation. Other leftovers are turned into compost.

Although some eco-measures cannot reduce food waste in a direct manner, they play an important role in reducing the carbon footprint. Some restaurants, fully aware of the problems caused by food miles, source fruit, vegetables and chicken from local farms. Promoting vegetarian cuisine and cell-cultivated meat is also an effective way to reduce the environmental effects of grazing, growing feed for animals and dealing with their waste. It is estimated by Nature Food that meat accounts for nearly 60 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted during food production.

To conclude, the current practice of disposing food waste in landfills is not a sustainable solution as it consumes valuable landfill capacity and wastes useful organic resources. In addition to the eco-efforts made by the food and beverage industry to reduce food waste, everyone should change their eating habits to avoid culinary abundance created by overordering.

Meg Arroll and Louise Atkinson suggest that we should create our own food diary to uncover emotional eating pattern and identify triggers that might prompt overeating (Meg Arroll and Louise Atkinson, The Shrinkology Solution). Sometimes anxiety can trigger emotional eating patterns and prompt overeating. If the food diary can help identify triggers that prompt overeating, the temptation of ordering too much food in restaurants can be resisted.

Lam Shun-wa is a senior executive chef, director of catering industry affairs of Chinese Dream Think Tank. 

Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister, part-time researcher of Shenzhen University Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law Research Center, chairman of Chinese Dream Think Tank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

【CDTT Newspaper Article】Lam Shun-wa and Kacee Ting Wong:Restaurant customers have role to play in curbing food waste (China Daily HK Edition, 7 Sept 2023)

https://www.chinadailyhk.com/article/349787#Restaurant-customers-have-role-to-play-in-curbing-food-waste

Chinese Dream Think Tank is a non-profit Hong Kong-based organization working with skilled volunteers, experts and professionals who are passionate about telling the China story well.

This article is reproduced by Kwun Media with the consent of China Daily.

中國夢智庫| 「誰知盤中飧,粒粒皆辛苦」之 特區垃圾堆填區與食物浪費問題

人體攝取食物才能生存。但是,對於大家的健康而言,「大魚大肉」的豐衣足食生活方式所引伸出來的「食物浪費問題」一直間接地威脅著大家伙們的生存。「食物浪費問題」對特區垃圾堆填區政策事宜,一直持續性地產生許多迫在眉睫的民主問題。餐飲業有責任與義務採取有效措施減少食物浪費,從而減低丟棄的食物破壞環境,但是,咱們每一個人都有責任,應該牢記碗里裝著的夠了就行:「 一粥一飯,當思來處不易;半絲半縷,恆念物力維艱。」

根據環境保護署(EPD),目前,特區大部分廚餘會連同其他都市固體廢物一起被棄置於堆填區。在2020年,每天約有10,809公噸都市固體廢物被棄置於堆填區,當中約3,255公噸為廚餘,2021年最新數據顯示,廚餘穩占每天送往堆填區固體垃圾的30%,佔都市固體廢物最大類別(註1)。

在20世紀上半葉,政府能通過土地複墾的材料再運用解決生活垃圾這個民生問題。但到了1950 年代後期,由於香港已進入戰後工業化時代,對環境有害的固體廢物混合物不斷增加,已開始取代有機生活垃圾,市政局開始意識到土地複墾不再是特區的可持續廢物管理方式(註2)。

 

特區現行都市固體廢物策略性處理方法是運用三個均位於新界的堆填區。事實上,三個堆填區容量已經接近飽和,近年來各大媒體也重點報導了關於食物浪費與堆填區飽和問題。由於垃圾堆填區會產生破壞環境與對人體有害的沼氣,特區政府在沼氣管理上下了大工夫與花費了大量資源。舉例說明,「垃圾滲出水」(Leachate)會嚴重污染周邊土地,環保署訂明嚴格相關標準,確保處理安全措施及無有害物質的釋放,還利用沼氣提供熱能,處理相關機件動力問題。(註3)。

社會越來越多共識表明,餐飲業應首先解決食物浪費問題。筆者之一任職高級行政總廚,多年來耗盡渾身解數試圖採用最好的烹飪方法與方式為美食愛好者們提供最讓人垂涎欲滴的作品,這一道道色香味俱全的美食當前,「吃貨」們不經意間下單也特別給力。又由於許多人喜歡「萬歲」熱情招待客人,狂點佳肴,被寵壞的美食愛好者們製造了大量剩菜剩飯無疑加劇了食物浪費問題。問題在於顧客就是上帝,客人怎麼點廚師就怎麼來。

廚師精湛的廚藝值得表揚,但美食愛好者們也應該自律,應該嘗試好好管理美食所帶來的誘惑。還有些愛面子的老闆們生怕被來賓與服務員笑話,拒絕打包。這些不環保的飲食陋習,全社會都應該正視。環保署應開展教育活動,推廣正確的用餐習慣。

讓人欣慰的是特區一些頂級餐廳與酒吧已採取培養正確環保用餐習慣措施,廚師與調酒師正在嘗試減少與節約使用食材的創新烹飪方法為顧客提供食物。在這方面所做出的努力也獲得了「米其林綠星」(Michelin Green Stars)的認可。例如,特區中環一間以經典威士忌「酸酒」(Penicillin)命名的新式酒吧推出以 10種雞尾酒為主角的新菜單,全部採用零浪費方法製作,「吃貨」們,動起來(註4)。

將多餘的食物捐贈給慈善組織是解決食物浪費問題的雙贏良方之一。超市、餐館、快餐連鎖店與酒吧老闆們應向在特區掙扎着的勤奮貧窮與饑餓群體展現愛心。特區「企業天使」抱著「停止浪費、解決飢餓、以愛相連」的使命,從商店收集多餘的食物,義工們一次次地為窮人送上米飯。近期,「社區良堂」也以「廿五蚊兩餸飯」走好貧窮社區,咱們為「企業天使」們點讚!

值得注意,針對企業(私營公司與工商業界別)與公共設施食療所產生的廚餘回收問題,環保署已於2021年推出大規模廚餘收集先導計劃,以源頭收集方式分類廚餘,在特區首個有機資源回收中心「O.PARK1」將廚餘轉化為能源後產生有機堆肥副產品(註5)。特區於2018年在小蠔灣創建O.PARK1作為垃圾堆填區的可持續性替代方案,它通過分解廚餘來產生能量發電。部分廚餘則通過堆肥回收利用(註6)。

雖然一些維護生態措施不能直接減少食物浪費,但它們在減少「碳足跡」(Carbon Footprint)方面發揮了重要作用。一些餐館老闆充分正視食物運送過程中所可能產生的破壞環境問題,紛紛從當區的農場直接進貨,採購水果、蔬菜與雞肉等等食材。根據「自然-食品」(Nature Food),人數的肉食習慣導致肉類供應鏈生產所產生60%的溫室氣體排放量。所以推廣素食與細胞培育肉類也是減少飼養食用性生畜相關的飼料與處理牲畜排泄物的有效代替方法,對環境保護有良好的影響。

總而言之,目前特區採用的垃圾堆填區方式處理廚餘是一個不可持續性解決方案,原因在於它不但消耗寶貴的堆填區容量資源,而且對有機資源再利用沒有幫助。所以除了上述特區餐飲業為保護環境減少食物浪費所做的努力之外,特區居民們都應放下筷子,好好想想嘗試改變「暴飲暴食」的飲食習慣,避免下單過度而導致浪費食物。

有專家建議咱們應了解與記錄一下自己個人的每日食物攝入習慣,通過自我追蹤來自救,個人是否有情緒化飲食潛意識模式,從而找出可能觸發導致「暴飲暴食」的個人生活方式(註7)。有些「吃貨」會因焦慮而引發情緒化進食模式的開啟。吃飽了、撐著了,還是不停下單。如果上述專家的意見是對的,咱們試試,這樣可能會有助於個人抵抗美食的誘惑。

註 1: 環保署「問題與解決方案 處理廚餘的挑戰」修訂日期 : 二零二三年一月十一日 available at: https://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/tc_chi/environmentinhk/waste/prob_solutions/food_waste_challenge.html

註 2: Nele Fabian & Loretta Ieng Tak Lou「The Struggle for Sustainable Waste Management in Hong Kong: 1950s -2010s」in Worldwide Waste Journal, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 2019 at p 3 available at:!https://worldwidewastejournal.com/articles/10.5334/wwwj.40

註 3: Wikipedia「Waste Management in Hong Kong」available at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_management_in_Hong_Kong

註 4: Victoria Burrows「Hong Kong restaurants are getting greener – at last: from fine dining Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental and Michelin-starred Mono to Vicky Lau’s Mora, sustainability is finally on the table」20.06.2023 available at: https://amp.scmp.com/magazines/100-top-tables/article/3224674/hong-kong-restaurants-are-getting-greener-last-fine-dining-amber-landmark-mandarin-oriental-and

also see: https://www.timeout.com.hk/hong-kong/hk/酒吧/penicillin

註 5: 同上,註 1

註 6: O.PARK1「O.PARK1是…」available at: https://www.opark.gov.hk/tc/

註 7: Meg Arroll & Louise Atkinson「The Shrinkology Solution」London: Quadrille 2018 at p 56

文:林信華
高級行政總廚
「中國夢智庫」餐飲業事務總監

文:丁煌
深圳大學基本法研究中心兼職研究員
經民聯港島支部主席,「中國夢智庫」主席
國際公益法律服務協會顧問委員會成員
全國港澳研究會會員

《中國夢智庫》是一間扎根特區的非牟利團體;與心存熱誠的資深義工、專家與職業專業人士們合作,攜手「說好中國故事」。

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