Looking at my hometown Hong Kong - How are we handling our food waste ? 

Dissertation - Hong Kong : Small city, BIG waste


Hong Kong (HK) is the city where I grew up, and where all my loved ones reside. The seed of striving for a better HK was planted in me, following a sequence of personal events, and enlivened by the Umbrella movement1, which occurred in 2014. This subsequently ignited a movement of self-reflection and introversion in me, which compelled me to ask myself: what do I wish for the rest of my life, and how can I contribute, as an individual, to meliorate our quality of life ?

At the time, I had been working in advertising in HK for years and grew weary of the industry’s money quest and fame game. Consequently, I resolved to leave behind my comfortable existence and embarked on a a new chapter by studying Service Design at the Royal College of Art. I will eventually become a service designer and participate in design projects that will ameliorate the quality of our lives.  Upon moving to the United Kingdom, the more I learnt about sustainability through the Sustain RCA lectures, the more ignorant I felt.  I was ashamed when I learnt of the immense amount of food we are wasting every day in HK. We have no agriculture; the totality of our food resources is imported, which in turn increases dramatically our carbon footprint. No recycling system has ever been implemented in the city, thus we merely dump our food waste into the landfill.  If we take pride in having constructed a ‘gourmet heaven’ in HK and food is such a significant aspect of our culture, then these food waste cannot be treated as ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind”. It should be embedded in our daily lives as well.

This dissertation serves as a learning tool for me, in order to gain a better comprehension of my hometown, through the new lens of service design, to empathise with the situation as a local and to identify the design challenges of reducing food waste. Throughout my research, I realised that the topic is multi-layered and engages with numerous domains, such as ecology, politics, economy just to name a few. Therefore, the purpose of this dissertation is to act as a springboard for future thinking, by skimming through various large topics. This paper does not aim to preach for certain solutions regarding food waste but to propose some groundwork and incite thinking for any future initiatives in the field. Hopefully, there will be some.

This dissertation will first draw a picture of the overall situation of food waste in HK. It will thereafter examine the government’s endeavour to reduce food waste, and identify key areas of inefficient handling in the policy. The topic remains considerably vast, hence only the most impactful issues will be addressed here. Following on, it will study how other cities in different parts of the world tackle similar challenges and how their initiatives could potentially represent food for thought for HK. I hope the information in this paper will provide some insights and analysis and contribute to my overarching question: Is food waste a bad design problem? If this proves true, this matter could be transformed into an ‘opportunity in disguise’.