Students in Hong Kong show that food waste is not rubbish

A food waste manager pours unconsumed food into the decomposer, as other students observe

Students at Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, with support from their teachers, are currently addressing the importance of recycling food waste in their campus. Every day during lunchtime, a lot of food waste is produced and most were thrown away in the past. However, food waste can be actually turned into useful fertilizers upon reaction with certain microorganisms and Wah Yan College students want to get the message across that food waste is not rubbish. To achieve this, the school spent more than a year to apply for funds to purchase a food waste decomposer from the Environmental Protection Department, Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and which started operating in March 2013. Food Waste Ambassadors in each class were organized to help and food waste is collected from each class as well as in the canteen, and put into the decomposer every day. Mike Lai, a teacher at Wah Yan College says that the most important thing in promoting environmental protection is to raise public awareness towards the issue. “We are willing to work harder to raise our students’ concern towards environmental issues. For instance, organizing talks and workshops are possible ways to achieve this. We want to pursue the message that recycling not only applies to papers, plastics, or aluminium cans, but also food waste, and that ‘rubbish’ can be turned into useful materials. Another important message is that environmental protection just requires easy steps. Putting the food waste into the decomposer is not difficult. Everyone is able to help protect the environment.”

Young students and their teachers, with the food waste decomposer
Recording the volume and time, to monitor the decomposition process

He expresses concern on the waste of energy, especially in junior forms and shares that sometimes air conditioners are used even in rather cool weather. “And many times I discover that students leave electrical appliances like fans, air conditioners, and lights switched on but they are not even in the classroom. In my opinion, my institute is always willing to provide support towards environmental issues and can organize an exhibition and invite well-known scholars to hold a talk for fellow students to raise their environmental awareness. Likewise, class teachers can give suggestions and advice to remind students to pay attention to the environment. In fact, my institute can even provide some funds to acquire some ecological equipment. Many of my students and colleagues have a great environmental interest on the distribution of resources. Many of the resources are put in the wrong place and are wasted. If we make good use of those resources, we can help a lot of other people.” Ian, Lai Yui Yan, the student in charge of the Food Waste Decomposer Program, shares the class efforts and how students are not only working with the concern but what they are also thinking.

Sample of the fertilizer produced by the students from their food waste

“The Food Waste Decomposer Scheme began a few months ago and the results sound good. The Food Waste Ambassadors of the classes pour the food waste into the decomposer every day, which means we are heading toward the goal of environmental protection more quickly. In detail, each class is given a bucket to contain unconsumed food during lunchtime. Food Waste Ambassadors are chosen to deliver the buckets filled with unconsumed food to the canteen, where the Food Waste Decomposer is located. The contents of the filled buckets are then poured into a large bucket that gathers all the food waste. By late lunchtime, our Food Waste Managers arrive and pour the food waste into the decomposer and they record the time, temperature, and amount. And after a few months, some biological-friendly fertilizer will be generated and are ready to be used. With an investment, we learnt more about how the students think about the scheme. Most of them now better understand the need to be more environmentally-aware and that their actions are contributing to a better environment, so they wish to support it, and this can also help themselves too.”

Students are provided a short course on using the decomposer and the decomposition process

Au Yeung Wai Tsing, a Food Waste Ambassador shares his thoughts. “It is just because I think helping others is good, and when I am helping the planet Earth, the effort is worth more with helping hands. Besides, this can help me too as I am, and we are all, living on Earth.” Tsang Chi Ho Matthew, another student and a Food Waste Manager, says, “I think the scheme is meaningful because Earth made itself as home for us, so I think we need to do something for it too.” Wah Yan College, Hong Kong is a grant-in-aid Catholic secondary school for boys in Hong Kong founded on 16 December 1919 by Tsui Yan Sau Peter and run by the Society of Jesus, Ireland. Fully subsidized by the Government of Hong Kong, Wah Yan College, Hong Kong is a grammar school using English as the medium of instruction with 58 full-time and part-time teachers and around 960 students.


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