HK Airport sets green standard

December 29, 2019

The Airport Authority expanded the scope of its food waste recycling programme in 2011 to cover Hong Kong International Airport business partners, including restaurants and lounges operating in terminal buildings, as well as airline catering companies, hotels and cargo terminals.


In 2017-18, over 2,000 tonnes of food waste from 17 airport business partners were collected for recycling.


Rainie Ho, the supervisor of one participating restaurant, said staff make every effort to collect food waste on a constant basis.


“We have three bins of recycled food waste, including eggs, toast, bread, chicken, meat, pork bones, tea and coffee every day.”


Ms Ho gave kudos to the Airport Authority for making the process simple.


“The Airport Authority provides us with garbage bags every month. We explain to our staff that the red bags are for food waste, while the black ones are for general rubbish. This makes it easier for them to remember and handle.”


Airport Authority Assistant General Manager (Sustainability) Mike Kilburn is the facilitator of the food waste recycling programme. He hoped to encourage more business partners to join by making the scheme as trouble-free as possible.


“This is an example of an easy, useful and free programme because the contractor comes to collect from each company and the contractor provides a clean rubbish bin for the food waste, they take the food waste away, they wash the bin and then they bring it back clean.


“And it is useful because the food waste is not just sent to the landfill, but it is turned into fish meal so it goes back into the food chain because the fish meal is fed to the fish and the people can eat the fish, so it is a very complete system.”


Surplus food collection

In addition to food waste recycling, the authority promotes the Food Rescue Programme in co-operation with a local non-governmental organisation called Food Angel.


In 2013, the authority helped Food Angel to purchase a refrigerated truck and covered the cost of collecting surplus food from business partners on the airport island.


By 2014, a central storage room was set up in the terminal building to collect even more surplus food from catering outlets.


By proving it can reduce its environmental impact by working closely with the entire airport community, the authority was recognised at the 2018 Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence where it won the Gold Award for the Public & Community Services Sector.


Future prep

In 2018, the authority launched a voluntary municipal solid waste charging pilot scheme to achieve waste reduction.


It has assisted more than 200 tenants with measuring their waste generation and calculating what it would cost to dump it in the future.


Another participating restaurant manager Alfred Lau explained that the pilot scheme helps restaurants gear up for the polluter-pays principle.


“A mock monthly invoice was issued to us, showing the quantity of waste disposed and the estimated disposal charge. Now we understand that by reducing our waste, we will pay less in the end.”


Mr Lau believes the pilot scheme encourages eateries to alter their disposal behaviour by recycling as much food waste as possible.


“Our disposed waste amount fell sharply once we learnt useful ways to recycle. Our restaurant is located in the restricted area of the airport where drinks are not allowed to be brought inside. So many passengers buy bottled drinks and create a large amount of plastic waste. Just by recycling plastic bottles, our waste decreased significantly.”


The authority said it is proud to be the driving force behind waste reduction.


“We make it easy for them because we do all the organisation, we make it useful because they can help them to prepare, and it is free for them to join the programme. This is very important for us because as the Airport Authority, our job is to create a concept that other people can follow and if you address those three criteria, you make it very hard for them to say no to you. We take away their reasons to say no, so it is easy for them to join our scheme,” said Mr Kilburn.


The Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence is led by the Environmental Campaign Committee alongside the Environmental Protection Department and in conjunction with nine organisations. The objective is to reduce Hong Kong’s environmental impact by promoting environmental management.


The Airport Authority’s current target is to reduce, recycle and recover 50% of all its waste by 2021.

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