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Letter to the Editor of South China Morning Post – Response to a reader’s letter on waste management

I write in response to Mr. Tom Yam’s letter on 25 January.

In 2013, we published the waste blueprint leading towards a reduction in per capita municipal solid waste (MSW) by 40 percent by 2022.  This is not only a dream. We are taking concrete steps to make our dream come true.

To put things in perspective, the recent increase in per capita MSW disposal to 1.39 kg was largely due to the rise in commercial and industrial waste, which generally correlated with local GDP growth.  The per capita domestic waste disposal has been stable at around 0.88 kg. 

We must face the reality that Hong Kong does not have any strong industrial base to readily absorb most recyclables even when they are properly separated at source, and hence our system is inevitably susceptible to factors including the fluctuating regional demand for recyclables.  While our current 35 percent recovery rate is lower than that of Taiwan and South Korea, it is comparable to that of some advanced economies such as the United States.

We accord a high priority to reducing food waste which alone accounts for over 30 percent of landfilled waste.  We should not simply shrug off the almost 8 percent decrease in per capita food waste disposal.  Pending development of Organic Waste Treatment Facilities (OWTF), our current food waste recycling capacity is limited.  The notable achievement is the direct outcome of an enhanced food wise awareness, a fact we should all feel proud of.

Meanwhile, we are pressing ahead to implement MSW charging which drives behavioural changes in reducing waste and promoting recycling. In South Korea and Taipei, waste disposal dropped by some 30 percent soon after implementation of waste charging.  Following the successful producer responsibility scheme on plastic shopping bags, we will implement two other schemes for waste electrical and electronic equipment and glass beverage containers, and will conduct a feasibility study for suitable plastics containers.

With the progressive implementation of waste-to-energy infrastructure, including OWTFs and Integrated Waste Management Facilities in the pipeline, we will be seeing a visible drop in waste disposal.

It takes time for various initiatives to take effect given the vast number of stakeholders involved.  But we are moving in the right direction towards our goal and we are not very far from it.

Wong Hon-meng
Assistant Director of Environmental Protection