Hong Kong has a serious solid waste problem.

In 2011, Hong Kongers threw away 13,458 tonnes of rubbish a day. The daily domestic waste generation amount per capita in Hong Kong, at 1.36 kg in 2011, is higher than the figures in Taipei city (1.00kg), Seoul(0.95 kg) and Tokyo(0.77kg). These figures reflect the severity of Hong Kong’s domestic waste generation.

Despite these concerning figures, the government has not been taking enough steps to relieve the solid waste problem.

In the past years, the government relied on policies pertaining to the expansion of the existing landfills. Earlier this year, the government passed a bill to further develop the landfills as well as build Hong Kong’s first incinerator in nearly two decades. The government has plans to construct further incinerators in the future.

Incinerators are effective in reducing the volume of waste, thus relieving the pressure on Hong Kong’s landfills. Businesses can harness the heat from the incineration process to generate electricity, or as seen is Japan, heat swimming pools, thus providing for not only economic but also social benefits.

Incineration may be a solution, but this does not solve the underlying problem.
The amount of waste Hong Kongers generate continues to grow. What Hong Kong people really need is a comprehensive scheme to reduce solid waste at source, including a waste charging scheme, as well as more incentives to encourage recycling for both individuals and the waste disposal industry.

Waste charging may directly motivate Hong Kong people to reduce the amount of rubbish they generate. Taipei city is a great example in demonstrating the effectiveness of waste charging. Through providing economic incentives, Hong Kong people can truly be motivated to limit their waste and and start recycling more of their waste, thus achieving a more sustainable lifestyle.

Solid waste is an issue that affects everyone, yet this pressing issue unfortunately receives too little attention. Few realise the true source of the problem lies on the lack of measures to truly tackle Hong Kong’s waste problem from its very source. Any active and responsible government should take expedite drafting effective policies on the matter before waste haunts us again.

by Kevin Liu

(The view of the author does not represent the position of the Society)