Hong Kong must speed up roll-out of food waste bins at private housing amid residents dropping off scraps at public estates, lawmakers say

Hong Kong must speed up the installation of food waste collection bins in private residential buildings as some residents are disposing of their scraps at public estates, lawmakers have said, after authorities vowed to introduce more of the facilities.

A green group also raised concerns on Wednesday about whether the city’s infrastructure could cope with increased demand for recycling of food scraps ahead of a separate waste-charging scheme set to be rolled out in August, despite the government plan to install more dedicated bins.

Legislator Chan Hoi-yan said the number of “smart” food waste recycling bins was highly inadequate at present, as the city was home to 42,000 private resident estates and more than 3,700 “three-nil” buildings, which are those that do not have owners’ corporations or property management companies.

She said environmental protection and recycling measures should not be divided up between public and private housing in a lopsided manner. “Even if public housing estates have enough [bins], it is necessary to assess whether the number located in private residential developments is also adequate,” Chan told a radio show.

“But residents of public housing estates currently have to share one food waste-disposal unit between two buildings at the moment.”

She said residents from neighbouring estates were also dropping off their food waste at the public housing recycling facilities.

Rubbish bags placed outside a smart food waste bin at an estate in Tai Po. Facebook/Ying Ying

The Environmental Protection Department pledged on Tuesday to complete the installation of more than 700 smart food waste recycling bins in all 213 public housing estates by August, while estimating 300 of them would be available in private buildings by the end of the year as part of a pilot programme.

But the pilot scheme had only approved about 40 out of more than 150 applications from private housing estates after launching last month.

The department said it had installed about 530 bins in 70 per cent of the public estates so far, with each one able to collect 120 litres (32 gallons) of food waste. The smart system alerts cleaners to empty bins once they are 70 per cent full.

Chan said many residents she met during her visit to Un Chau Estate in Sham Shui Po were unaware of how to use the related mobile app and QR codes to open the bins, resulting in people leaving their food waste out in the open, which could cause hygiene problems.

Wasted effort? Hongkongers trialling rubbish scheme fret over insufficient bins

“It is common for food waste to be generated at lunch and dinner. Authorities should address these peak periods by deploying additional staff to assist residents and speeding up the replacing of bins,” she said.

Beatrice Siu Wing-yin, senior public affairs officer of Greeners Action, said she hoped the government could bear the installation and management costs for private developments, given the pace of introducing such bins was relatively slow when compared with public housing estates.

“We also notice the provision of recycling facilities in those ‘three-nil’ buildings is severely inadequate,” Siu said. “We urge the government to expedite the implementation of convenient community recycling networks by integrating them into markets and public refuse collection points to meet the demand as soon as possible.”

The city produces more than 3,000 tonnes of kitchen waste daily, accounting for a third of all solid waste. The demand for recycling food waste is expected to rise rapidly if the government presses ahead with a waste-charging scheme in August.

There are about 900 food waste collection points across the city at present, collecting around 210 tonnes daily.

Siu said the O-PARK1 facility, located in Oyster Bay on the northern part of Lantau Island, could process about 200 tonnes of food waste every day.

Flushing food waste down the toilet? Hong Kong’s poor predict rubbish fee chaos

“With the coming O-PARK2, along with a waste water treatment plant, only about one-fifth to one-sixth of the [total] food waste will be treated based on our calculations. We also hope that the government can swiftly enhance the necessary facilities in this regard,” she added.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Gary Zhang Xinyu said implementing waste-charging policies was challenging because some residents supported the concept but found it difficult to adopt without adequate help, while others were less willing to accept the policy or had limited understanding of its principles.

He proposed providing each household with a “reasonable” amount of free designated garbage bags per month, helping residents avoid additional expenses and providing more incentives.

“Allowing people time to adapt to the change can reduce resistance. I believe behaviour will change through [waste] charging but it takes time.” Zhang said.

He added improving the overall recycling infrastructure was crucial at this stage, stressing that if the charging scheme was implemented poorly, some might perceive it as a tax and push back against it.


Business Asia
the authorBusiness Asia

Leave a Reply