Hong Kong's landfills on the brink of overflowing

The three landfills used to hold the trash of seven million Hong Kong residents are expected to reach capacity in two years due to poor economic and waste management policies.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Landfills in the global financial hub of 7 million people are nearly full as the volume of waste rises for a fifth straight year and recycling lags behind other Asian cities.

From syringes and television sets strewn on its beaches to brimming landfills, Hong Kong is struggling to keep pace with a growing waste problem in one of the world's most densely populated cities.

Landfills in the global financial hub of 7 million people are nearly full as the volume of waste rises for a fifth-straight year and recycling lags behind other Asian cities.

Britt Clennett has more from Hong Kong. 

A sticky situation

Hong Kong's density and exorbitant land prices have hampered recycling efforts, with operators reluctant to earmark sites for recycling facilities, environmentalists said.

With most people living in tight spaces, separating different types of waste is difficult because residents simply don't have enough room.

Tracey Read, chief executive and founder of Hong Kong-based Plastic Free Seas, said mom and pop-type recycling operations were not able to cope with the huge volume of waste.

"People don't believe anything gets recycled. I think people would generally be very happy to recycle if they had confidence in the system working," she said.

Looking for a cleaner future

The government has promised new infrastructure, including a multibillion dollar incinerator to be built on one of the island's most verdant locations. Critics argue the incinerator will add to pollution, waste public money and hurt efforts to promote recycling.

Loh said the incinerator was necessary to handle the average of 1.4 kg of trash every Hong Kong resident generates a day, according to official data.

The city is also considering a waste-charging scheme which helped to reduce waste levels by 20 percent in Taipei and Seoul.

"The economic tool - to get people to understand they are going to have to pay as they throw - is very powerful," Loh said.

However, the earliest possible start date for such a programme would be the end of 2019.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies