Food waste: Dessine moi un fish!

May 28th, 2012 | Posted by greg in Daily life...

What a refreshing Monday morning! Having spent hours on the below blog post yesterday, I was pleased to see the work of the NGO Friend of Earth in the front page of the SCMP this morning, blasting supermarket and how they discard 29 tons of usable food EVERY DAY!

Consciousness is a word too often taken lightly by industries, often it merely represents a few lines on a PowerPoint presentation showing CSR programs created by people seating in a office 15000 miles away from the actual location, or even worst, the CSR is outsourced to some companies who are only looking to make a few bucks. When you are in the front line, facing every day issues, because yes, I call 1.1 tons of food waste per day an issue, then it’s truly bothering at many different level and in particular, with our pastry, to somewhat be a contributor of that insane amount!

Finished fish food

In the past year, we have taken several measures to reduce it and (tried) to be clever, using different channels. The first step came with an association very close to my heart, Giving Bread, where we give our left-over breads and then it is distributed to people in need – all done by amazing volunteers! We then started to separate our garbage in the kitchens, food, paper, metal, plastic, glass and so on… this is nothing short of spectacular when 150 cooks make it happen on a daily basis. Then again, I’d rather not think about what happened to the waste before that!

Last week, we actually started to give our buffet left over to Foodlink, a great organization distributing food to people in need – we actually don’t have much buffet (… and rightfully so, I think buffet are such a waste of chef’s talent and waste of food everyday) but for what we have, we give and trust me, a city like Hong Kong needs it. We also happen to collect untouched fruits, also for Foodlink – at a staggering rate of more than 80kg per day! It feels really good to know that all of it will help others.

Starting to separate rubbish is really the greatest step of all, and upon that, what to do with all that food?

Fish food!

A few weeks ago, we visited Kowloon Biotechnology factory, where our 1.1 tons of food waste goes EVERY DAY! First, the water is extracted from the waste using a huge “washing machine”. Then, the food is processed in a huge drying machine for 6 hours (with 19 other tons of food waste!) – followed by a further 2 hours of drying at higher temperature. At the end, only 10% of the 1.1 tons is left… It is then sifted for bones and other foreign object before being grounded into a fine powder containing only 10% of water. Later, it is pressed into small pellets that will be fed to fishes in the 1040 fish farm Hong Kong counts and where each farms uses 1 ton of fish food per day! We were also told that certain fish didn’t want to eat the pellets if the shape wasn’t round, and others were ok with it – go figure!

It sounds like the perfect plan, especially for the fish food factory, selling the goods at HK$25,000 per ton! And yes, it all sounds very green, except perhaps the fuel and electricity used to dry the food, but we were told by the owner that the new facility opening soon would be “greener”. The current plant is 30 years old and as you can see the machines are a bit old and reminds me of Gotham City from Batman :)

That cylinder contains 20 tons of food waste drying for 6 hours!

Being an eternal “challenger” in whatever I come across, I had to ask the owner how the fish metabolism were affected by that steady intake of recycled  fine pastries, ground coffee, wagyu beef trimmings and other food – because it is surely not their everyday plankton diet. The answer came with a little hesitation, first he mentioned that the fish food was tested by a lab to make sure it was safe for the fishes and then, the answer got completely lost in translation. Thus, I never got my answer, but I guess it’s not optimal for the fishes and antibiotics are probably on the same shelf as the food.

Anyhow, the fact of recycling food we didn’t eat into something that will be digested by fishes that we will eat sooner or later leaves me pondering on the whole process as nature never intended to do it that way…

Conclusion: If you don’t want to eat your own food waste; control your production, your purchases and the food you put on your plate! :)

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2 Responses

  • wow…. 1.1 tonnes of food waste everyday is indeed no joke! Considering how some folks are literally starving as we speak. But I think what’s been done is for good cause, at least all is not gone to complete waste. Its a pity that your delicious pastries end up in the tummies of the fishes and not ours!

    80kg of untouched fruits gone to waste…. that’s unthinkable…

    • I hear you Alan and couldn’t agree more!
      It’s such a relieve to know that our waste is controlled and does not end up in the already full land field. I have read the FOE article and it’s appalling, yes… :(

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