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  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 7:56am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Hong Kong should waste less and help save planet earth

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 4:04am

There was a time when our government struggled to tackle budget deficits during financial crises. It imposed both massive public spending cuts and unpopular tax increases. Unpopular as these measures were, they were necessary to restore the city's fiscal health and pave the way for sustainable development.

The same concept applies to our environment. When we take away more than the earth can sustain, we run into a so-called ecological deficit. Hong Kong, being such a wasteful city, not surprisingly has outstripped many other places on this front. According to conservation groups WWF and Global Footprint Network, the city's deficit is the second worst in Asia, and ranked ninth among 150 countries.

That Hong Kong and Singapore are the worst in this part of the world is understandable. The study takes into account the demand and supply of resources such as crops, seafood and forest products in a place, along with its carbon emission. With millions of inhabitants but with limited land and natural resources, both places have no choice but to import and consume more than they produce. Deficits are inevitable.

However, that is no excuse for a wasteful lifestyle. According to a survey in the report, Hongkongers buy one to five clothing items a month, but they throw away on average six pieces a year. Together with other municipal waste, this contributes to the 9,100 tonnes of trash dumped into our near-saturated landfills every day.

Our wastefulness is not just limited to rubbish. Signboards and shops brightly lit overnight, freezing cold shopping malls, the list goes on. As green groups have warned, if everyone in the world lived like Hongkongers, we would need nearly three planet earths to satisfy our needs.

But there is only one earth. And unlike budget deficits, which can be tackled through income and spending adjustments, new sustainable resources are difficult to come by. That makes cutting down consumption all the more important in the crusade to reduce our ecological deficit.

Hong Kong's advanced economy and limited resources mean it may be unable to turn from a debtor into a creditor. But just like digging into one's bank savings, recklessly spending today is indeed creating an overdraft for tomorrow. As a responsible global citizen, we can do a lot more to help save the planet. A less wasteful lifestyle is a good way to begin.


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This article is now closed to comments

I was expecting a satire piece after reading the first paragraph. Budget deficits, cuts in public spending, sustainable development? Not here my friend. You must have HK confused with someplace else.
Clearly the government could and should do much better than now to save the planet for our futures generations. To beging with, the government should run regular ongoing campaigns to increase awareness among the general public for the protection of the planet and about unsustainability of the current lifestyle. The government should also introduce policy measures for waste reduction, particularly non-bio degradable waste. For example, it can impose taxes on production/sale of products that potentially harm the environment and levy charges on waste. The schemes should ultimately be designed to minimize generation of the waste, particularly non bio-degradable waste, and to provide an incentive for re-use/recyling of non-perishable products by making the people who generate the waste pay for the damage being done on the society and the planet.
1/2 our daily household MSW is food waste (3,300 cubic meters) which is now co-mixed with viable recyclable dry waste - it could be collected separately, ground at transfer stations into a puree and emptied into the existing sewage system for treatment at Stonecutters plant which by 2016 can handle 1,700 cubic meters of waste water per MINUTE. The local food waste is 90% water content versus Europe's average 30% water content, 50% Japan and 55% Korea.
The resultant dry MSW could create a far larger recycling industry and jobs than now exists.
Our landfills can be reverse-mined using plasma gasification plants adjoining the landfills - the resumed land could be used for public housing.
Construction waste can also be processed by plasma gasification creating an inert vitrified molten lava like slag that can be ground and used for road aggregate or building sand.
Someone tell the ENB that the date is 2013 not 1913.
everybody is causing waste but no one wants landfilling at his doorsteps.
It's not just HKers, Singies, or any nation. Earthlings as a whole, are wasteful and environmentally-unfriendly (selfish) in general. Anybody who tried to deny this is unrepentant or delusional. The landfills, pollution and excessive wastes that threaten abnormal extinction of this species and all other collateral sacrifice with us, are predictably inevitable. It's just a matter of when now. The self-programmed extinction clock started way back when this thing human evolution came about matured. Earth, its plants and wild animals would have been wayyy better off if we just stuck to staying in the water/


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