To reduce garbage, there has to be a sturdy recycling system and a culture of being less wasteful
Reducing the size of bins is an odd way to kick-start a campaign that ultimately depends on citizens being more responsible about what they throw away
Educating Hongkongers about responsible garbage disposal is not easy when there is barely even a recycling culture. Charging for household waste is the government’s goal, but steps have to first be taken to ensure that can be smoothly introduced. In part to anticipate the dodging of fees, hundreds of public rubbish bins with smaller openings and larger warning notices have been put in place to discourage the throwing away of bulky items. The initial response has been disappointing, to say the least.
Street cleaners found their workload had increased after 800 bins with the new design were installed last week. Notices that items unable to fit into the bins should be taken to refuse collection points were sometimes ignored, the garbage instead being piled alongside. There are on-the-spot fines of HK$1,500 for such infringements and for serious offences, penalties of up to
HK$25,000 and six months in jail. Such punishment is warranted given our city’s waste crisis, but of little use without strict enforcement.
Given that we are among the most wasteful people in the world and Hong Kong is on the brink of running out of landfill space for garbage, urgent action to reverse our wasteful ways is necessary.
The success of the plastic bag levy proves how mindful we are about saving cash and that, in turn, has taught us about the damage such products can cause to the environment. There is no reason why the same approach should not be applied to what we dispose of when at home and away from it.
Reducing the holes in bins from 37cm by 19cm to 23cm by 15cm is an odd way to kick-start responsible waste disposal. Stepping up a policy of decreasing bin numbers and their size is appropriate. Household charging is inevitable and should be introduced in a timely manner. But there also has to be a sturdy recycling system and a culture of being less wasteful. Until those can be brought about, the focus has to be on enforcing rules and penalising those who ignore them.