Earth Chat

Stipulate Responsibility of Yard Waste Management to Prepare for MSW Charging

In the article "Q&A: Urban Yard Waste in Hong Kong", I have discussed the reasons why yard waste in Hong Kong is disposed of at landfills, as well as its low recycling rate. In this follow-up article, I will propose a feasible approach to Hong Kong’s yard waste management based on research and analysis, and explore facility siting preferences in terms of distance from source, treatment mode, scale and treatment capacity.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) built Yard Waste Recycling Centre Y · PARK in Tsang Tsui, Tuen Mun, which has been in operation for more than two years, to convert woody yard waste into useful materials such as compost, bio-char and upcycled products. According to Y · PARK’s webpage, its daily treatment capacity is 60 tonnes (or more than 20,000 tonnes per annum). However, grass clippings, leaves separated from tree trunks and smaller branches are not accepted. The centre only handles wooden tree trunks.

Y · PARK in Tsang Tsui, Tuen Mun (Image source:

Current status of disposal:

  • Grass clippings, leaves, and twigs from greening maintenance are routinely disposed of at nearby landfills by landscaping or property management companies.
  • When arboriculture practitioners cut down trees, they tend to separate leaves and twigs from tree trunks to facilitate transportation, but the leaves and twigs are not accepted by Y · PARK. To avoid extra transportation cost, leaf shoots together with tree trunks are disposed of at nearby landfills.

With waste charging coming in April next year, the gate fee of landfills will be increased. I could foresee that the industry would transport tree trunks to Y · PARK for free disposal, while the majority of leaves and branches will be discarded in designated bags for landfill disposal. Obviously, there is still a long way to go in resolving this problem.

Extreme Weather:

According to the EPD, 1,800 tonnes of collapsed trees were collected after Typhoon Saola. 270 tonnes of which were screened for treatment at Y · PARK, though we do not know how much waste wood was eventually disposed of at landfills. Although super typhoons do not strike Hong Kong every year, allocating temporary government land to recycle and repurpose yard waste for building green infrastructure in new towns is more productive in the long run, instead of importing large amount of peat moss from Northern Europe or Canada for planting, which would otherwise increase carbon footprint.

Trees collapsed during Typhoon Saola (Image source: SCMP)

Research Initiatives:

I have recently completed a study involving in-depth interviews and questionnaire surveys with public and various stakeholders (2,470 public respondents; approximately 400 stakeholders). The findings are as follows.

  • Nearly 400 stakeholders agreed that "both the government and yard waste producers have the responsibility to recycle/reuse yard waste" (scoring an average of 4.466 out of 5).
  • "Implementing on-site composting to dispose of leaves and finer branches (e.g., parks, schools, residential areas) is cost-effective" received a mean score of 4.017.
  • "Centralised collection of wood waste for further treatment is cost-effective" had a mean score of 4.055.
  • 2,470 public respondents preferred "short collection distances, large number of facilities, and small-scale yard waste treatment facilities (decentralised)" (40%).
  • "Mid-range collection distance, medium number of facilities, and medium-scale yard waste treatment facilities (mid-range)” (37%)
  • The remaining minority favoured "large-scale yard waste treatment facilities (centralised) with long collection distances and small number of facilities" (22%).

Upon consolidation of results and analysis, I have the following suggestions:

1.Stakeholders agreed to categorise yard waste into two main types as the basis for delineating responsibilities and establishing a system: wood waste (e.g. tree trunks, branches) and green waste (e.g. leaves, grass clippings, hedges, small branches).

2.The public online survey shows that the public tends to support "small-scale treatment facilities with short collection distances and a large number of facilities", which indicates that they do not consider yard waste facilities as something "not in my back yard" (NIMBY).

3.Green space owners should be responsible for treating green waste from daily pruning and greening maintenance. The government should encourage yard waste producers to recycle green waste in a decentralised manner at their respective sites and practice "on-site composting" where space allows. As for wood waste, the government can set up additional temporary or permanent collection and processing centres in mid-range locations.

4.If green waste producers are unable to set up on-site composting facilities due to site space constraints, the Government's district collection points should charge according to the amount of compost collected, so as to ensure that "on-site composting" is the preferred choice of green space owners.

5.The government should stipulate yard waste management responsibilities to prepare for waste charging.

6.The government should formulate a blueprint for yard waste management and set short-, medium- and long-term targets, with a long-term goal to stop yard waste disposal at landfills within 8 to 10 years.

#Note: There is already a precedent of "on-site composting" in Hong Kong's urban areas. As long as it is properly managed, it will not cause hygiene and odour problems. For more information, please refer to the article Q&A: Urban Yard Waste in Hong Kong.

The research project mentioned above "ECF Project 55/2020 Unlocking the paradox of dumping black gold – A conjoint analysis of yard waste management preferences, strategies and facility siting in Hong Kong” was funded by the Environment and Conservation Fund. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Environment and Conservation Fund.

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