Recycling and green living have attracted wide public attention nowadays. Food processing has in fact generated a large amount of food waste every day, including fruit peels, eggshells and coffee grounds, which are known as “food by-products”. And these food by-products can be revitalised into valuable materials through applied research and innovative technology. In order to promote interdisciplinary research and sustainable development of food by-products, the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi) officially unveiled the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Food By-Products Utilization (CIFU) today (Tuesday). The Secretary for the Environment, Mr WONG Kam-sing, officiated at the online opening ceremony, supporting the Centre to promote green living through applied research.
In his pre-recorded video speech, the Secretary for the Environment, Mr WONG Kam-sing said, “I am pleased that THEi has established the CIFU to focus on research programs of green innovation in food by-products, with a view to enhancing food waste recycling and turning waste into resources as well as supporting both waste and carbon reduction. The Government released Waste Blueprint for Hong Kong 2035 and Hong Kong's Climate Action Plan 2050, which need the research and development of low carbon and green technologies to support Hong Kong to strive for the vision of waste reduction, resources circulation and zero landfill, and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050.”
Chairman of the Vocational Training Council (VTC), Mr Tony TAI, remarked that “Waste Reduction” was an indispensable measure to achieve carbon neutrality in Hong Kong. A variety of food waste were generated in Hong Kong every day, and most of them would be dumped in landfills. He thanked the Research Grants Council for the funding support to the establishment of the Centre at THEi, which aimed at finding out innovative solutions to revitalise food by-products and promoting a sustainable living environment. Mr Tai added that the Centre provided opportunities for THEi students from different programmes to participate in various applied research projects, a shining example of the VTC’s commitment to integrating technology into teaching and learning, helping students to gain interdisciplinary knowledge and applied skills.
Speaking at the ceremony, the President of THEi Professor Christina HONG noted that THEi strongly supported interdisciplinary research activities, encouraged students’ creativity and design thinking led approaches, and fostered innovation and technology-led collaboration with the industry. She hoped that the Centre could serve as an incubation hub for students, academia and industry partners to pursue new technologies and inspire innovation through food by-products related research.
The Centre consists of two research laboratories that provide an interdisciplinary applied research platform for edible and non-edible food by-products. The “Food By-Products Revitalization Laboratory” located at the Tsing Yi Campus of THEi is mainly engaged in the research of edible by-products, such as the transformation of food by-products with high dietary fibre and protein to ingredients for healthy food. The team of THEi teachers and students of the Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Food Science and Safety and Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Culinary Arts and Management had earlier collaborated with soybean producers and breweries and conducted research by using soy okara and spent grains they provided. After repeated tests, they successfully turned these food by-products into plant based burger, sausages and edible utensils, creating a healthy eating and new dining experience. Marcus, an THEi student who participated in the research, said that he was inspired by the concept of planted meat and edible tableware. They have developed the edible spoons and chopsticks with different flavours such as original, lemon and cocoa. Marcus was delighted with the research outcomes that could enrich the dining experience and more importantly, give a new life to the food by-products.
In addition, the “Food By-Products Conversion Laboratory” located at the Chai Wan Campus of THEi, mainly focuses on converting non-edible food by-products into environmentally friendly materials by employing advanced equipment and technology. THEi teachers and students of the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Product Design are currently undergoing a research project on plastic substituted materials. By extracting rich calcium compounds from eggshells, biodegradable materials can be produced for use in the production of utensils and other kitchenware like spatula, contributing to environment protection and sustainable development.