Advisory Council on the Environment

Report on Waste Recovery and Segregation
in Public Housing Estates


(ACE Paper 43/98)
for advice


The purpose of this paper is to give Members a brief report on measures taken by the Housing Authority (HA) in respect of waste recovery and segregation in public housing estates.


Waste reduction by means of waste recovery and recycling started as early as 1991. Initially there were some 320 waste paper collection bins provided and only 16 public housing estates participating. The waste recycling scheme was later joined in by other non-profit making organisations and green groups at intervals.

Current Measures of Waste Recovery and Segregation Waste Recycling Scheme

In order to arouse residents' awareness of environmental protection and to promote the concept of waste recycling, the HA has successfully implemented a Waste Recycling Scheme in 83 public housing estates. To date of the 83 estates, 60 have been provided with three types of bins for collection of paper waste, aluminium cans and polyethylene (PET) bottles whilst the remaining 23 estates with bins for collection of waste paper and aluminium cans. With the favourable response and support of the residents, the HA has decided to extend the scheme to all other rental estates by March 1999. The scope of extending the same scheme to HOS courts is also being explored.

Waste Segregation Requirements

Since 1995, HA's cleansing contracts have been revised and the contractors are now required to segregate recyclable materials from household refuse and to properly dispose the salvaged wastes. Currently, for estates consisting of 3,000 domestic units or above, cleansing contractors are required to employ an additional operative for waste separation and disposal of salvaged waste. By October 1998, cleansing contractors are also required to provide a part-time salvaging operative for each estate below 3,000 flats. These operatives have to report the volume of recyclable materials recovered and delivered to the recyclers.

Volume of Recyclable Waste Collected and Disposed

The waste recycling schemes focus on three types of recyclable materials, viz. paper waste, aluminium cans and PET bottles. During the period January to December 1997, a total of 29,317 tonnes of recyclable waste had been collected in all HA managed public housing estates.

The volume of recyclable materials collected in the period April to June 1998 is as follows :


Type of Materials
83 Estates (tonne)
Paper Waste
Aluminium Can
PET Bottle

The Waste Reduction Task Force for Public Housing Sector

The Government Waste Reduction Plan in 1997 has set out an overall reduction target to reduce in 10 years time municipal solid waste, domestic, commercial and industrial waste by 40%. For domestic flats in public housing estates, it is planned that the target of waste reduction will be in the order of 1% in year 1 and will raise incrementally to 10% in year 10 in order to meet the overall target.

To achieve the above-mentioned target for public housing estates, a task force chaired by an Assistant Director of Housing Department with representatives from Housing Society (HS), RSD, USD, EPD was formed in June 1997 to work out waste reduction initiatives and to formulate implementation programmes. Under the task force, a "Waste Reduction Monitoring Programme" was launched by EPD in 25 public housing estates (including two HS estates) in mid 1998. Data before the implementation of the Waste Reduction Plan is used to form a base-line against which change can be compared. The corresponding weighbridge records of refuse collection vehicles serving these 25 estates would be retrieved to monitor the effectiveness of various waste reduction/recycling programmes which are implemented in the estates.

On-going Promotional Initiatives

A Waste Recycling Campaign is held every year jointly with the Environmental Campaign Committee in public housing estates which focuses chiefly on arousing residents' green consciousness and encouraging them to adopt a waste separation habit through various activities including competition on waste separation/recycling, fun fair and publicity, seminars/talks by green groups, etc. The Housing Department helps liaise and co-ordinate residents, MACs, Estate Management Advisory Committees, and estate welfare organisations in the campaign. Phase II of the Waste Recycling Campaign will be launched in 83 public housing estates in the period October 1998 to March 1999.

In addition, a number of activities such as Waste Paper Collection Scheme, Waste Separation/Collection Scheme, Waste Recycling Campaign and Green Living Campaign are being organised for the same purpose, apart from the work done by the Waste Reduction Task Force. Residents participation in these Schemes/Campaigns varies from one estate to another.

Future Development

Automatic Refuse Collection System (ARCS)

In addition to the conventional manual refuse disposal operations, the HA has been testing a revolutionary waste disposal system, i.e., an automatic refuse collection system, in Wah Sum estate and Shek Yam East estate since December 1995 and July 1996 respectively. The new system disposes refuse through an enclosed and invisible network of underground pipes. Refuse is automatically vacuum-sucked from individual buildings to a central collection station at a distance away where it is compacted and stored in a container ready for disposal. Exhaust air is discharged to the open air through dust and carbon filters or other mechanical means. Instead of letting trucks drive around collecting refuse and waste, refuse is sent direct to the container, thus eliminating the nuisances of smell and noise caused by the carriage of refuse containers and refuse collection vehicles. At a recent meeting, the HA endorsed a proposal to adopt the ARCS as a standard provision for future public housing estates and HOS courts.

In the existing ARCS estates, door-to-door collection and disposal of refuse by cleansing contractors are practised. Waste segregation is dealt with again by the cleansing contractors at source before refuse is dumped into the refuse chutes. It is envisaged that this practice will continue for a while in ARCS estates until residents get used to the waste segregation and recycle concept and practise waste segregation themselves.

The HA will therefore continue to


(a) educate residents through Waste Recycling Campaigns and others;
(b) provide recycling bins on the ground floor to facilitate deposit of recyclable wastes by residents;
(c) encourage residents to separate recyclable wastes from refuse before disposal in order to facilitate collection by cleansing workers; and
(d) instruct cleansing workers to salvage the recyclable wastes from the refuse disposed by residents.


It is believed that the success or otherwise of the waste recovery programmes would depend on the following inter-related factors -


(a) The mode of refuse collection operation in estates, i.e. self-disposal by residents or door-to-door collection by cleansing contractors;
(b) Residents' awareness, recognition and co-operation in environmental protection and waste recycling programmes;
(c) The success of the educational and promotional programmes initiated by Government Departments, non-profit making organisation, green groups, etc.; and
(d) The market value and acceptability of the recyclable materials.

Housing Department
October 1998


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