As it is, Hong Kong's waste reduction plan is a waste of money

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 November, 2015, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 November, 2015, 4:51pm

Your report, "Waste targets 'set to be missed'" (October 31), on new data showing that more rubbish was dumped in Hong Kong's landfills last year, came as no surprise. The latest figures from the Environmental Protection Department show per-capita waste disposed daily rose to 1.35kg last year from 1.33kg in 2013, while waste recovered remained at 37 per cent.

This is the second highest amount of waste disposed and the lowest proportion of waste recovered in the past 10 years.

This worsening trend - that is, more waste generated and less waste recovered - confirms my observation that the Environment Bureau's target of reducing per-capita waste disposed daily by 40 per cent to 0.8kg, and increasing the waste recovery rate to 55 per cent by 2022, is pure fantasy ("Realm of fantasy", May 19). With no mandatory separation of waste at source and no vibrant local industry making products from recyclable waste, the bureau fantasises about copying the success of South Korea and Taipei by simply imposing waste-charging. It can't understand that it has to both decrease the waste generated (through waste-charging) and increase the waste recovered to achieve such success.

The fact is that the bureau's every measure to increase waste recovered and recycled has had negligible effect. No trial waste-separation programme in public housing estates has ever led to city-wide implementation. The three-colour recycling bins, introduced in 1998, have never collected more than 900 tonnes of recyclable waste per year, a mere 0.02 per cent of waste generated.

Likewise, the HK$1 billion fund to support the recycling industry will not increase the waste recovered. Hong Kong's waste recovery industry comprises small operators whose biggest costs are property rental and collecting/sorting/transporting recovered waste. Yet they can use the fund only to buy or upgrade capital equipment.

Moreover, their profitability, and hence incentive to increase waste recovery, depends on the international market price for recovered waste because 98 per cent of it is exported, mainly to mainland China. With the price of used paper falling by 20 per cent this year, and plastic and scrap metal by 50 per cent, no recycling fund will increase the amount of waste recovered.

The bureau's efforts to recover and recycle waste are inconsequential, other than giving the impression of activity by its overpaid bureaucrats. With the unabated increase in waste generated and no increase in waste recovery, taxpayers' money may as well be saved for the inevitable construction of a second incinerator.

Tom Yam, Mui Wo