Hong Kong's recycling bins are often too filthy to use and are vastly outnumbered by conventional bins, a green group says.
Friends of the Earth says the poor provision of environmentally friendly bins means many people who want to recycle are instead forced to dump materials into bins that will go straight to landfill sites - at a time when the city is struggling to find a solution to its waste crisis.
The government earlier this month withdrew a request for HK$23 billion in funding for a huge incinerator and more landfill sites after lawmakers opposed the scheme. The city recycles about 52 per cent of its solid waste; way behind many other territories in Asia and the West, and its landfill sites will be full by 2018.
Friends of the Earth surveyed three busy streets, Nathan Road, Hennessy Road and Kwong Fuk Road in Tai Po last year, counting the conventional and recycling bins and observing how they were used.
For example, along the 3.6 kilometres of Nathan Road, a Kowloon street popular with tourists and shoppers, it found just nine sets of recycling bins, compared with 164 conventional rubbish bins.
In Hennessy Road, one of Hong Kong Island's busiest thoroughfares, there were 70 rubbish bins, compared with nine for recycling. And in the New Territories, the one kilometre of Kwong Fuk Road boasted only one recycling bin, against 35 conventional bins.
The lids on recycling bins are also a deterrent to recycling, the group says, as they are sometimes too dirty to lift up. It also believes the recycling bins are cleaned less frequently than conventional bins.
And once a recycling bin is contaminated with non-recyclable rubbish, it effectively becomes a conventional bin that will end up in a landfill site, the group says.
'Once a recycling bin contains rubbish it is not supposed to take, people find it easy to stuff in even more irrelevant rubbish,' Michelle Au Wing-tze, a senior environmental affairs manager for the group, said.
Au said Hong Kong should learn from Seoul and Taiwan where some recycling bins are transparent, giving a clear message to the public.
An Environmental Protection Department spokesman said decisions on bins were made on the basis of local conditions. As recycling bins took up more space 'there is a chance they might obstruct passers-by and drivers' views. So they are not suitable in many places', he said.
He admitted that the lids could deter people from using the bins, but said, on balance, the benefits of the bins outweighed the problems.