Using CCTV to deter dumping of food waste step in right direction

In the long run, though, the government must introduce a tax as a disincentive to a throw-away mentality

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 2:10am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 2:10am

Hongkongers cherish the right to privacy. When privacy has to be balanced with the public interest we rely on safeguards against abuse, such as judicial oversight of covert surveillance of criminal suspects or the privacy commissioner’s guidelines for the use of closed circuit television for overt surveillance of public places and common areas. Street-scape use of CCTV on the big-brother scale encountered in Britain has not so far commended itself to Hongkongers. But localised use of it has become a standard back-up response when, say, public welfare and Hong Kong’s reputation as a safe city is threatened, as it was by acid attacks on shoppers in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay in 2009.

The latest plan to deploy CCTV also concerns public welfare and civic reputation. In accordance with the privacy guidelines, the government is to install CCTV at black spots under a pilot scheme to deter illegal dumping of rubbish such as food waste in areas like back alleys, which can create unhygienic conditions near restaurants and homes. Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man says there are reports of dumping late at night to avoid detection. Apart from the hygiene issue, there are also concerns during the warm weather that liquid waste can create a breeding place for disease-spreading mosquitoes.

CCTV to zoom in on scourge of illegal dumping in Hong Kong

Once black spots have been identified and cameras installed in consultation with the 18 district councils to deter illegal dumping, some offenders can be expected to simply do it elsewhere. Nonetheless that will be an inconvenience and, hopefully, complement the educational value of the deterrent. That said, CCTV is just a small step in the right direction of tackling the staggering amount of food waste in Hong Kong. Taiwan and Japan have successfully introduced a food-waste tax as a disincentive to a throw-away mentality. That may not be so easily done in Hong Kong and the government may have other priorities right now but, in the long run, it needs to look at the food-waste issue and how to enforce a tax on it.