Tackling HK’s Food Waste Problem with Diego Dultzin Lacoste

Veronica Yoo
19 October, 2021

In 2019, there were some 11,057 tonnes of solid waste disposed of at landfills each day here in Hong Kong. Of these, about 3,353 tonnes (30%) were food waste, constituting the largest Municipal Solid Waste category being landfilled.  Among the food waste disposed of daily, some 1,067 tonnes were generated from commercial and industrial (C&I) sources such as restaurants, hotels, wet markets, food production and processing industries.

In the age of environmental consciousness, statistics still goes to show that we’ve got a major food waste problem. On a mission to tackle this problem is Diego Dultzin Lacoste, co-founder of OnTheList and founder of Phenix – a food rescue mobile application to jumpstart the participation of a global scale movement to combat food waste.

Nana Asia: Tell us more about what inspired you to bring the Phenix app to Hong Kong? 

We founded OnTheList in early 2016 and started working with retail luxury brands, over the years we’ve been working with food brands and we identified there was an issue with food waste in HK. By gathering some information, we’ve started to think there was an urge to implement an innovative solution to tackle the issue of food waste happening on a daily basis (3,600 tons of food), due to close to expiry food or simply the daily fresh food produced which ends up unsold. 

That’s how we got in touch with Phenix team in France and finally launched the app in Feb 2021, with the objective of giving a second chance to unsold food of the day to be cleared at a discounted price on the app.

Nana Asia: What does sustainability mean to you (be it fashion or lifestyle or both!)?

Sustainability means implementing solutions which will benefit everyone and most importantly the planet. Whether we are talking about solid waste (clothes, objects, jewellery etc … for OnTheList) or food waste (for Phenix), the point is to reduce the quantities going to landfills. The idea of sustainability is also to grow the circular economy, prevent waste first, but then recycle and upcycle as much as we can. Involving the consumer in consuming more responsibly will lead to a greener community.

Nana Asia:  What is the current food waste situation in Hong Kong?

3,600 tons of food are going to waste on a daily basis,  it includes close to expiry items that consumers don’t want to purchase anymore, unsold fresh food of the day, overstocks etc… It’s generated by the food retail industry (supermarkets, cake shops, bakeries..), food service industry (restaurants, hotels, cafes…), wholesalers, but also from the consumer which accounts for 50 to 60% of the total food waste. 

Therefore, our aim is to connect the F&B industry to the consumer to make sure no good food goes to waste, while creating awareness around food waste to both professionals and consumers.

Nana Asia: What was the key to success of the Phenix app in France and how do you think it would resonate to the Hong Kong market? 

The key success of Phenix App in France is that there is both the offer and the demand. The offer corresponds to the potential food waste that could be avoided by selling the food baskets on the app. The demand represents consumers who basically must consume food, but actually consume it more responsibly by saving these items from going to waste, while saving a minimum 50% discount of the retail price.

The situation is the same in HK, since there is a high amount of food going to waste on a daily basis, and who wouldn’t be attracted by discounts?

Nana Asia: How can the Phenix app help us become more conscious consumers?

Phenix App concepts actually shows the reality to the consumer, all the food that was purchased through the app was actually very good food that was saved from the bin. All our users can see their impact on the app (how many kilogram of food saved).

We also share a lot of tips on our social media, by proposing solutions on how to reduce the food waste at home (better fridge organisation to keep products a longer time, how to use some of the “old or ugly” fruits and veg, what to do with citrus peels, etc…). We also share information about expiry dates (best before date, use by date) so that the consumer can have a better idea about what he can or cannot eat after this date. By our presence and concept implementation in HK, we create awareness around food waste and highlight what’s the actual impact on our planet so that people can think further and consume more responsibly.

Nana Asia:  Could you give us more insights as to what is to come for Phenix? 

A Cantonese version of the app is coming soon, which we are very excited about as we will be able to target more local people. We also aim to support more charities, giveback to the community and to the people in need.

Of course, more and more partners will be joining the app as our objective is to have partner shops all around Hong Kong, therefore being able to reach more consumers.

Phenix App is available for download on both Appstore and Google Play Store

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