Public education is the key to successful implementation of solid waste charging scheme
| South China Morning Post
| Kelvin Wan, Friends of the Earth (HK)
In the second half of 2019, or soon afterwards, the Hong Kong government will launch its municipal solid waste charging scheme to tackle the high rate of waste generation. However, when we talk to residents in housing estates that are taking part in the Housing Authority's "Green Delight in Estates" programme - an effort that aims to raise residents' environmental awareness - we find that most of them are not aware of the scheme, or of the procedures for waste separation and recycling.
In 2016, the lion's share of municipal waste - about 10,345 tonnesdaily - was sent to local landfills. Domestic waste accounts for more than 60 per cent of municipal solid waste.
It is therefore important to publicise the Environmental Protection Department's call to "Dump Less, Save More" as widely as possible.
In July, Friends of the Earth (HK) conducted a municipal solid waste auditing pilot test in 12 public housing estates, helping residents to adapt to the new scheme. A total of 99 families, comprising 301 residents, took part in the test over the span of 10 consecutive weekdays.
They were given supporting equipment, such as electronic scales to weigh their domestic waste, and clear instructions on how to separate waste. The first five-day period served as a baseline study of the normal disposal mode. In the second five-day period, the participants were asked to practise waste separation and clean recycling, and to generate eco-detergent or fertiliser from food waste. Afterwards, all of the non-recyclables were weighed.
The final result showed an average reduction of 8 per cent in the waste produced per family. This test clearly shows the effectiveness of public education on reducing municipal solid waste. People are willing to use less and dump less when they are offered basic information on domestic waste management.
Public education is therefore the key to the successful implementation of municipal solid waste charging. We urge the government to devote more resources to organising promotional activities to educate the public on our city's waste crisis, as well as on the easy steps that every Hongkonger can take to avoid or reduce waste generation.