Monday, 13 January 2014

Hopes for Greener Hong Kong

These recycling bins look cute, but hardly big enough for Hong Kong
Last month, two green groups in Hong Kong organized a one month pilot project to get residents in Tai Kok Tsui to recycle as much of their waste as possible.

In the end 90 percent of 88 households took part and they managed to reduce the amount of trash going to landfills by 30 percent while the amount of recyclable material increased fivefold.

Friends of the Earth and Greeners Action organized the experiment as the government is planning to decide how to best introduce paid waste removal.

Each household received 15 large plastic bags which would have cost HK$3 each, and 45 smaller bags valued at HK$1 each. Even though the households didn't actually purchase the bags, they did think twice about what they threw away.

Before the pilot scheme, the households involved threw away on average a total of 110kg of waste per day. In the first week of the experiment the amount of garbage dropped 19 percent and then by the last week it was down 30 percent.

"We talked to the households after the campaign and 78 percent told us their awareness of waste reduction had been boosted through the campaign," said Angus Ho Hon-wai, executive director of Greeners Action.

There were also recycling bins placed in the building and the participating residents were educated about the importance of recycling. As a result before the campaign just 5.4kg of material was recycled per day. But it increased by 5.3 times in the second week, and then ended up being 16kg per day in the last week of December.

So many glass bottles are dumped in the trash everyday in HK
It's a good indication that the government has not done enough to educate residents about recycling and making it easier for people to do it. There are many people in Hong Kong who want to recycle but have to make an effort to bring the materials to the nearest street corner that has the bins and even then most of the time they are overflowing.

Others have no awareness of recycling and use the bins for garbage. Again this is the government's fault for not actively educating residents about the importance of recycling and how it is good for the environment.

For me, recycling is relatively convenient with bins located outside my apartment building, but at times it can be packed to the gills and I have to cram paper and plastic bottles in there.

However there is no permanent glass recycling system set up which is ridiculous in such a cosmopolitan city where many restaurants serve wine and people drink beer from glass bottles. Hong Kong Cleanup says the city produces 300 tonnes of domestic glass waste but only 1 percent of it is recycled!

Currently volunteer groups go out to collect bottles and even then they have to compete against the city's garbage collectors which is ridiculous.

A few days ago in an annual survey, I suggested to my building's management that there be glass recycling and today one of the staff contacted me to say it will take four months to get that sorted but in the meantime they will try to offer glass collection once a month.

Cities like Vancouver have already gone a step further with food recycling. All kinds of food items from fruit peels to bones and leftover food can be placed in a bin that is collected once a week like the garbage and recycling. Yes it can be smelly particularly in the summer, but it's for the greater good -- for the next generation.

It will take Hong Kong many years yet to follow suit. We need to everyone on board to make recycling a regular habit before we can even begin to address the icky issue of food recycling. But the government really needs to make it more convenient for people otherwise especially in Hong Kong, many won't bother.

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