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Rubbish

Hong Kong is running out of landfill space. The government, not known for its imagination, has decided that the answer is to charge for waste disposal by introducing a system similar to other countries where we will buy garbage bags from shops, the price of which will include a levy for waste charges. They defend this action by saying it works in other countries. I don't doubt that but Hong Kong is not other countries.

Many Hong Kong residents don't show a great deal of pride in their environment. It is common to see people drop litter in the street, out of car windows, even out of the windows of flats. Take a look at popular BBQ sites on a Sunday morning, or walk along the many trails in our country parks and look at the amount of rubbish left behind. Rubbish bins in the streets are being fitted with smaller openings to discourage people from leaving large items and bins in the countryside are disappearing as we are being encouraged to take our litter home. How's that for logic. Take your litter home and dispose of it there - where you will be charged for the privilege. If people are happy to dump their litter in the street and the country parks now when rubbish disposal is free, are they more likely to leave the place tidy if they have to pay for waste disposal?

There are suggestions that the waste charge will encourage people to recycle. Well, it might if someone provided the infrastructure for recycling. Where I live there are probably half a dozen recycling points which have a container about the size of a small dustbin for paper, plastic and tins. Great for four or five families but these are to serve tens of thousands of people. Totally inadequate. And there are plenty of us who would love to know what happens to items collected from the recylcing bins. Is it really recycled?

In NZ, and I am sure other countries too, the local recycling station which served, at most, a few thousand people, consisted of a large container with slots for paper, cardboard, plastics, metals together with a number of crates for glass: brown glass, green glass, clear glass.... But I would not necessarily suggest that we should have more recycling stations, nor bigger recycling stations in HK.

If people can't be bothered putting rubbish in a bin then they aren't going to separate their rubbish and trundle off down the street to find the recycling point where they can dispose of it. All new housing developments should be required to provide easy-to-use recycling facilities, not just a few bins. It would be unreasonable to expect all older buildings to provide sophisticated facilities but there should be some provision made to assist and encourage residents to separate their rubbish at source.

A much more environmentally friendly and sustainable approach to waste reduction would be to reduce the amount of waste that can be produced. A lot of products come with excessive packaging. If governments in general, and our own in particular, were to put limits on the amount of packaging allowed then it would go a long way to reducing the overall waste produced.

If the waste charge is just part of a plan to reduce waste then I'm all for it, but on its own it looks like another half-baked idea that may prove to be less than successful.