Nina Jatana, Communications Manager, Asia, BSR

The Hong Kong government just announced a war on food waste—vowing to reduce it by 10 percent by 2015. As BSR’s "Waste Not Want Not: An Overview of Food Waste" report highlights that in Hong Kong and around the world, food waste occurs across the many aspects of the food chain—from farm to fork. The Hong Kong government has announced a series of actions, which include a focus on influencing consumers to change behaviors. Changing the entrenched practices and norms of food consumers is not easy, but adjusting our habits is important in reducing the growing amounts of waste.

In a city where food waste makes up one-third of all solid waste, the government’s plan is designed to have a direct impact on the volume of waste that goes into landfill. According to the NGO Feeding Hong Kong, 3,500 tons of food are sent to landfill every day. The volume of food waste has doubled in the past five years, and if this continues, all of Hong Kong’s landfills will reach capacity in 2018.

The Hong Kong government's announcement is a hopeful sign of a new importance placed on environmental policies in Hong Kong, which have traditionally been low on the political agenda. Wong Kam-sing, the brains behind the waste plan, is Hong Kong’s Secretary for the Environment—a green architect by trade, he is expected to be a real force for environmental change. He is joined by Under Secretary for the Environment Christine Loh, former CEO of environmental think tank Civic Exchange, who brings formidable experience in lobbying and advocacy to the task at hand.

Clear leadership by government and public bodies is valuable, but effective change requires a collaborative approach, as mentioned in our recent article, "Sustainable Urban Growth: Is Hong Kong a Model for China?" Initiatives that harness the power and influence of public, private, and civil society sectors are the most likely to gain traction.

If Hong Kong meets its food waste reduction goal, it would equate to a 350-ton decline in food sent to landfill every day; viewed another way that represents 642,000 meals (assuming the average person consumes 1.2 pounds per meal). Reaching this goal will require a collective change in practices by a range of businesses, from wholesalers and retailers to the food service industry, in addition to consumers doing their part.

Our "Waste Not Want Not" report outlines a series of actions for businesses including training food service staff, reducing store-level food losses through improved ordering and recovery programs, and establishing and enhancing food redistribution programs. Companies are also taking steps around the world to help individuals reduce waste, which we will explore in a brief later this month.