Wednesday, 27 October 2010

What a Dump

Hong Kong is the most wasteful place in the world.
Last year the city generated 6.45 million tonnes of garbage, more than double the amount 20 years ago. That means each of the seven million people here produced 921kg of solid waste, not including construction and hazardous waste.

We beat Norway which was number one at 91kg per capita last year according to a survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
That's a lot of crap.
And what does the Hong Kong government say about it?
Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said the increase was a natural outcome of economic activities, population growth and the arrival of millions of tourists.
"Despite the rise in waste generation... the waste dumped in landfills has been decreasing," he said.
The government claims that waste separation has helped reduce the amount of garbage going into landfills by half. But if you compare with other countries, Hong Kong dumped 1.62kg of rubbish per capita compared to 0.52kg in Taiwan and 0.44kg in South Korea.
So why isn't Hong Kong doing more? A friend of mine who has lived here for a long time has tried hard to be environmentally friendly at home -- separating his garbage into plastic, paper and food waste and even composts fruit and vegetable peelings in his garden on the terrace area. But he wonders if the government really does take his carefully separated garbage and recycles it as he hopes. I too separate my garbage and wonder if the trash collector for my apartment building cares to dispose of it properly too.
The government doesn't seem to be doing enough to have the infrastructure in place nor the economic or political support for recycling in the city. There are no regulations forcing people or companies to recycle or even separate their garbage. Why is that? Everyday Hong Kong generates so much waste and the government can only think of charging to dump garbage in the landfill and in the end the industry sector pressures it to rescind the charge. We are talking about the future of the place in which we live in!
Most Hong Kong people are removed from the entire waste management process. Many have maids to clean up after them and don't think about the garbage they generate. For example, my next door neighbours order take-out everyday. I hear their doorbell ring around 9:30pm at night and then I see them throw out a plastic bag filled with the plastic cups and bowls in the stairwell. My colleague sitting next to me goes through a plastic bottle of water a day and several paper coffee cups, along with take away sandwiches in a paper tray. Can't she bring a ceramic mug and use a plate?
These people don't realize they are polluting the place. They forget about their accumulation of garbage as soon as they drop it in the waste basket because it will be picked up and dealt by others.
Why is Hong Kong so passive when it comes to such a pressing issue?
I've heard that Hong Kong doesn't even recycle glass, the government claiming that it's not economically feasible.
It's not economically feasible? What about the state of our planet? Is that economically feasible for the next generation and beyond?
The short-term thinking of this city is absolutely appalling. Even if there are millions of visitors coming into the city, what is wrong with introducing them to a culture of garbage separation and recycling? It would make the city look far progressive and even give it a better image. You can't buy that kind of PR.
The government and its people need to sort their s*** out now.

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