Food scraps not recycled in restaurants

Updated: 2012-05-14 10:31

By Zheng Xin (China Daily)

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Many of the capital's restaurants are still improperly disposing of their food waste despite regulations from the State Council that encourage proper treatment and recycling, according to research conducted by a Beijing-based non-governmental organization.

Paying no heed to the government guidelines, most restaurants mix food waste with other garbage, sell it to private individuals as pig feed or even use it for illegal purposes, such as distilling cooking oil from the waste, according to a research report released on Friday by the Green Beagle, a non-governmental environmental protection organization based in Beijing.

The research began in February and has since surveyed 60 restaurants in the city's Chaoyang district.

"The food waste produced by the capital's restaurants is supposed to be sent to the food waste treatment factory at Gao'antun in the northeastern part of Beijing or Nangong in the south to transform it into organic fertilizer," said Chen Liwen, who headed the research. "However, the current situation is far from satisfactory."

Chen said restaurants in the capital produce at least 600 tons of kitchen waste daily, but the two food waste treatment factories in the capital only receive some 100 tons.

"It's distressing to see food waste, which might become useful fertilizers, animal feed or energy, mixed with facial tissue, disposable chopsticks and plastic bags," Chen said.

In July 2010, the State Council released a general guideline on the management of waste cooking oil and kitchen waste that urged local governments to strengthen recycling of waste and prevent gutter oil from reaching dinner tables.

To further boost recycling of food garbage, the Beijing municipal commission of city administration and environment selected 60 restaurants in the capital's Chaoyang district in a pilot project, which are obliged to send their food waste, including waste oil and fat, to two food waste treatment factories in the capital.

The violators are not limited to small restaurants deemed poor in quality, Chen said. She said even some of the established, well-known restaurants habitually break the rules.

Chen said it is easy enough to mix in kitchen waste with the relatively large supply of household garbage in the city without getting caught.

"Since the restaurant will not be punished no matter what ... few restaurants are strictly abiding by the guideline," said Chen.

Though some government staff do check how some restaurants work from time to time, the monitoring is still too poor.

"You cannot rely on the self regulation of the dining places," she said.

"There are actually a lot of opportunities in the table scraps, leftovers and orange peels," said Ren Lianhai, a professor with the Beijing Technology and Business University's department of environmental science and engineering.

Ren said the food items we discard before and after a meal is prepared and eaten are actually raw materials of abundant supply at an extremely low cost.

Chemical fertilizers can damage soil more their organic counterparts, said Feng Shaoqiang, founder of Coanda Energy Co, a Tianjin-based company that transforms kitchen waste into organic fertilizers.

"The treatment of kitchen garbage will be a flourishing industry if we properly classify and dispose of them," said Ren.

To better recycle the food waste by the restaurants, Chen said it was necessary to improve the transportation and monitoring system in the city.

Besides the lack of enforcement, Chen said the solution to the problem also lies in public awareness.

Her words are echoed by De Quanli, manager of Jindingxuan restaurant in Chaoyang district's Tuanjiehu area.

"Sometimes the leftovers at the tables are mixed with facial tissues, which makes it hard for us to have them classified," De said.

"Though the classification of rubbish has been a common practice in Western countries, it is still far from widespread in China," Chen said.