Green group in Hong Kong takes aim at mooncakes as Mid-Autumn Festival nears

More than half of the Hong Kong business and households in a recent study said they would rather not receive mooncakes during next month's Mid-Autumn Festival, according to a local environmental group.

The survey by Food Grace, a non-profit green group, was meant to tackle the city's food waste problem by urging Hongkongers to buy less of the seasonal dessert to give as traditional gifts to friends, family and business partners.

"Smaller bakeries will only start making mooncakes in August, but large manufacturers often start much earlier, which makes it hard for them to estimate sales," said Casey Ng Ka-Chun, the Food Grace project manager. "We urge these companies to make less and match the actual market demand."

The Food Grace survey interviewed 30 corporations and 257 households in July and August.

The group estimated that 2.9 million mooncakes would end up uneaten and in landfills this year, up from 2.2 million in 2018. Every day, 3,662 tonnes of food waste is sent to local landfills, equal to the weight of 250 double-decker buses, according to the Environmental Protection Department.

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Ng said Food Grace would hold mooncake makers accountable by meeting with producers whose products were most commonly collected from the non-profit's mooncake recycling programme.

The Food Grace programme collects unopened and unexpired mooncakes and donates the desserts to the city's less fortunate so they can celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Last year, the programme collected 80,000 mooncakes, at least 80 per cent of which were "lava custard" mooncakes.

"Obviously, the manufacturers overestimated demand and most of those mooncakes were donated by the makers themselves," said Ng.

Tiffana Kwok Yin-lai, the community engagement manager at Friends of the Earth (HK), said that most of the 30 tonnes of food collected in the Food Donation Alliance, came from manufacturers.

Food Donation Alliance is an initiative by Friends of the Earth to collect leftovers from banquets and markets.

"That is why I think manufacturers should not encourage overconsumption by providing different amounts of a range of products to cut down on overproduction," she said.

The survey found 56.7 per cent of companies and 51 per cent of households did not plan to purchase mooncakes as gifts - while 63.4 per cent of companies and 52.5 per cent of families did not want to receive the cakes.

Food Grace said 250 corporations had signed a charter - now in its 10th year - to stop buying mooncakes, and this year individuals would be recruited to sign the charter for the first time.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.