Campaign aims to recover one-fifth of domestic waste within two years Three or four years ago, waste recovery was a fresh idea favoured by expatriates and some yuppies in Hong Kong, while splitting dry and wet waste was almost unheard of. Today, waste recovery facilities are becoming standard fixtures in residential buildings. And in several years' time, the sight of residents carrying rubbish bags all the way to the rubbish separation room at the base of their buildings could become history. With the support of property management companies, an Environmental Protection Department campaign is under way with the aim of recovering one-fifth of domestic waste within two years. Under the source separation programme launched this year, waste recovery facilities - including racks, bins, or bags - will be placed on each floor of a building for residents to put waste paper, metal containers, plastic containers, and other recyclables. A guidebook will be ready this summer to provide property managers with practical ways to separate and collect waste, while making sure fire safety will not be compromised when bins or racks are furnished. 'With well-managed facilities and nuisance-free collection of rubbish, residents can expect a cleaner, more hygienic living environment. And after all, they do not necessarily have to pay more,' said Dr Ellen Chan, assistant director of environmental protection. The results of a pilot scheme were encouraging, said Dr Chan, citing residential estate Heng Fa Chuen, Eastern district, where the sale of recyclables brought an income of more than $100,000 to the property management company last year. As of March, 167 housing estates had signed up to join the programme on source separation of waste, including 122 private and 35 public residential estates and 10 government quarters. Rebecca Tam, community relations manager of property management firm Hong Yip Service, said the company was pleased to pitch in. 'Waste separation enhances the cost effectiveness of recycling, therefore giving incentives for recyclers to buy recyclables. The revenue to the residents may not be very much, but it certainly provides additional income, allowing us to pay the cleaning workers more,' said Ms Tam, describing it as a 'three-win situation'. In some of the estates, there was a 33 per cent reduction in waste, according to Ms Tam. A spokeswoman for the Housing Society also said the response of residents at its estates was very positive. Many residents were satisfied with the improved living environment brought about after the implementation of the source separation scheme, she said. The chairwoman of the Legislative Council panel on environmental affairs, Choy So-yuk, said the scheme deserved more input from the government. 'Source separation should not be treated as the only solution to our waste management problems. The government should also aim at waste reduction by, say, imposing plastic bag fees,' said Ms Choy. Last year, about 6.4 million tonnes of waste was disposed of in landfills. According to the government, the existing landfills can only last another six to 10 years if the amount of waste is not reduced. Since the launch of the three-colour waste separation bin system in 1998, some 500,000 tonnes of paper, 20,000 tonnes of aluminium cans, and 4,000 tonnes of plastic bottles have been recovered. This amounted to a total market value of $500 million and a landfill cost-saving of $65 million, according to the Environmental Protection Department. The recovery rate of domestic waste was 14 per cent as of last year. The department hopes to increase it to 20 per cent in the next two years.