Since my return to Hong Kong from Slovakia six months ago, I have been delighted to see the Environmental Protection Department’s (EPD) provision of new recycling spots through the Green@Community initiative.
I still remember rigorously scrubbing and sorting my plastic, paper and metal waste when I lived here many years ago. I would then take a few big bags of recyclables to the nearby recycling bins in my village. But there was always an element of uncertainty, given the rumours about recyclables going straight to landfills. Were my efforts going to waste (pardon the pun)?
I would not be surprised if this were particularly the case since China’s waste import ban in 2018. Until then, Hong Kong exported over 90 per cent of its recyclables to the mainland.
However, the EPD has been at the heart of a push to improve the local recycling system. They now operate several recycling stations and shops, including one conveniently located near my office.
The recycling stores even offer rewards, although receiving a towel after lugging 35kg of paper there (which, to be fair, doesn’t have to be in one go) seems a bit mean. But I can see how large rewards would defeat the purpose of these facilities.
Still, there’s one thing missing: household food waste recycling.
After being filled, bags are weighed and disposed of at designated collection bins. Some districts of Seoul have bins equipped with scales and electronic payment technology, so that residents can pay as they go.
During processing, liquids are separated from solids and used to produce biofuel. Dry waste is turned into compost and fertiliser.
Given many peoples’ attitudes to waste disposal, I have doubts such a system could be successfully implemented in Hong Kong in the short to medium term. Still, we need to start with something.
What we do have right now is a little-known scheme called the Food Wise campaign. Its main aim is simply to educate citizens about the importance of cutting down on their food waste. According to the government, the campaign has had some success. Domestic food waste disposal fell by 17 per cent between 2013 and 2019.
Hong Kong needs to build on this success. A household food waste recycling scheme would greatly benefit our environment and our image. With time, hopefully people will warm to the idea.