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Hong Kong environmental issues

Hong Kong can better reduce and recycle waste, if more people are shown how

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2018, 11:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2018, 11:13pm

In the second half of 2019, or soon afterwards, the Hong Kong government will launch its municipal solid waste charging scheme to tackle the high rate of waste generation. However, when we talk to residents in housing estates that are participating in the Housing Authority’s “Green Delight in Estates” programme, an effort that aims to raise residents’ environmental awareness, we find that most of them were not aware of the scheme, nor of the procedures for waste separation and recycling.

In 2016, a total of 10,345 tonnes  of municipal solid waste were sent to Hong Kong’s landfills every day. Domestic waste accounts for more than 60 per cent of municipal solid waste. It is therefore important to publicise the Environmental Protection Department’s call to “Dump Less, Save More” as widely as possible.

In July, Friends of the Earth (HK) conducted a municipal solid waste auditing pilot test in 12 public housing estates, helping residents to adapt to the new scheme. A total of 99 families comprising 301 residents participated in the test over 10 consecutive weekdays.

They were given supporting equipment, such as electronic scales to weigh their domestic waste, and clear instructions on how to separate waste. The first five-day period served as a baseline study of the normal disposal mode. In the second five-day period, the participants were asked to practise waste separation and clean recycling, and to generate eco-detergent or fertiliser from food waste. Afterwards, all the non-recyclables were weighed.

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The final result showed an average reduction of 8 per cent in the waste produced per family. This test clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of public education on reducing municipal solid waste. People are willing to use less and dump less when they are offered basic information on domestic waste management.

Public education is therefore the key to the successful implementation of municipal solid waste charging. We urge the government to devote more resources to organising promotional activities to educate the public on our city’s waste crisis, as well as on the easy steps every Hongkonger can take to avoid or reduce waste generation.

Kelvin Wan, project officer, Friends of the Earth (HK)