Hong Kong’s crackdown on rats must also deal with food waste

Among the positive effects of the scheme will be the elimination of food sources for rodents, thus reducing their population. Rodents are intelligent animals which thrive in urban areas, with food waste being a primary source of nutrition. Therefore, rodent infestations can’t be truly eliminated without addressing the problem of food waste.

What measures should the government consider implementing? Although reducing food waste will not be the only problem to be addressed when the new District Council term begins, the government should prioritise formulating comprehensive waste management policies.

Waste sorting is part of environmental hygiene. Whether the implementation of waste charging leads to an increase in rubbish on pavements is a matter of concern.
Managing waste sorting, improving public hygiene and overseeing waste management facilities are among District Councils’ responsibilities. There are a series of issues related to waste on which the government could initiate action and that the councils could help implement, such as establishing collection points for food and domestic waste in all 18 districts.
The food industry is at the centre of efforts to get rid of rodent infestations. How restaurants deal with their food waste and how that ties into rodent prevention and control work must be addressed.
At present, most restaurants are likely to be hesitant to invest in new technologies for handling food waste given the costs and their short-term leases. This is despite there being many food waste decomposers and other technologies available for processing used cooking oil that could improve sewage discharge.


Leftover oil from hotpot dishes in China reused to fuel planes

Leftover oil from hotpot dishes in China reused to fuel planes

This leads to the question of how different kinds of businesses dealing with food waste can be established to provide solutions tailored to the needs of each district. One example can be found on the outskirts of Las Vegas, where Las Vegas Livestock collects food waste from the city and turns it into pig feed on-site. The livestock raised on that feed can then be supplied to the local market.

This approach could be adopted for the abandoned fish ponds in the New Territories. Collecting urban food waste and using it to reinvigorate local fish farming and agriculture would bolster the entire food chain. High-quality, freshly grown produce is essential to maintaining Hong Kong’s reputation as a “food paradise”, and farmland and fish ponds are vital resources to that end.
Eradicating rodent infestations will help the food industry update how it handles food waste. The government should put together new waste collection facilities under foot bridges and urge every district to innovate. The district officers in all 18 districts should show leadership in driving the entire campaign.

Food waste is not a singular problem but rather one that reflects the issues of an entire waste recycling system. Instead of standardising the scale of food waste processing plants, there should be processing plants of varying sizes in each district, or even further subdivided into smaller communities based on their respective population.

Kitchen waste at Amoy Gardens on Ngau Tau Kok Road in Kowloon. Photo: K. Y.

Collecting food waste from public housing estates under the Housing Department could create significant business opportunities. Such a programme could involve the engineering, design and environmental science-related departments of local universities as well as tech start-ups at Science Park and Cyberport.

The community recycling network Green@Community could serve as a valuable reference, although it does not include food waste. The scheme could be expanded to cover food waste management, if the issue of how the waste would be collected can be solved.

Eradicating rodent infestations should become a focus as Hong Kong tries to improve its recycling and handling of food waste. More importantly, it will also help strengthen the economic development of the entire Hong Kong food industry.

Dealing with rodents requires reforming the entire ecosystem around recycling and food waste. Rather than waiting for problems to arise, District Councils should be proactive on issues such as these and promote community development, bolster the economy and improve people’s lives by introducing new technologies.

Mathias Woo is co-artistic director and executive director of Zuni Icosahedron


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