The amount of waste produced in Hong Kong dropped 9 per cent last year - the first dip in four years - but the amount of food waste, a key concern for environmentalists, increased.
The biggest drop was in waste for recycling - down 16 per cent - and the average quantity of solid waste disposed of at landfills decreased 2.6 per cent to 13,458 tonnes a day, while construction waste dropped 7 per cent, according to the government.
The reduction of recycling waste was especially obvious in plastics, with a fall of 47 per cent.
Friends of the Earth's environmental affairs manager Celia Fung Sze-lai attributed this decrease to the gloomy economy in Europe, as recycling companies tended to receive less waste when the prices were depressed.
Fung said yesterday the city was also receiving less plastic waste from overseas to be transferred to other places, such as the mainland. Her group had been told by recycling companies that the recycling price for plastic had dropped from 7,000 yuan a tonne last year to 4,500 yuan recently, due to a smaller demand in the mainland and overseas.
Fung also said the increase in food waste was worrying, and urged the government to come up with comprehensive strategies to recycle it.
Friends of the Earth said the government had revised waste figures for 2007 and 2008. If the original figures were taken into consideration, the decrease in waste production would be the first since 2005.
The government said the amount of construction waste dumped in landfills had dropped by half since charges for dumping construction waste were introduced in 2006.
Fung agreed the scheme was effective and noted that many construction companies now reused construction waste. The public's sense of environmental issues had also increased, and owners tended to carry out less unnecessary home renovation.
Disposal of domestic waste had also dropped cumulatively by 15 per cent since 2004, the government said.
But Fung said the city's landfills would soon be full and the government should implement a waste-charging scheme as soon as possible. "Although the amount has dropped, Hong Kong is still producing a lot of waste. It should focus on reducing waste from the source."