Waste ‧ Masters


Hahn Chu

Hong Kong, the international city has never been short of stunning buildings, and the tallest of them may not necessarily be located by Victoria harbour but instead in the North East New Territories.

When I visited the area about six years ago, the landmark that was still under construction had already reached 80 storeys high, and today it is unquestionably one of the tallest artificial landmarks built. I forgot to mention, this piece of construction is in fact called the North East New Territories Landfill. And because it is situated far away from the city, buried away in the countryside, no one notices it.

The Ta Kwu Ling landfill is a modern waste management facility which was built back in 1995. It had however been barely in operation for 6 years, when the government announced that due to the excessive amount of waste generated by the people of Hong Kong, the landfill may fill up earlier than expected.

Back in 1990, the British colonial government released ‘White paper: Pollution in Hong Kong–A Time to Act’, which was a long-term policy document dealing with local pollution. ‘A Time to Act’ clearly pointed out the urgency of the challenge. “In the past 15 years, the amount of municipal waste generated was increasing at a rate of 10% a year.” In those times, there were still limited numbers of tourists from the Mainland, and even then we produced enough waste to fill up the entire landmark– Exchange Square in just a week.

As an international city excelling in both technology and management. e city could quite easily develop state of the art waste transfer stations, landfills or super incinerators that comply with international standards. Given the scale and the high technical standards of the facilities here, there was neither seepage nor gas leakage, allowing members of the public to dispose of their waste with ease.

Convenience, efficiency and cleanliness are the city’s key goals 9
10 when it comes to dealing with waste. e same goes with the public litter bins.

When you hit the streets, you would find there is always a bin nearby providing everyone with the utmost convenience. I conducted a survey and found that in Taipei, Seoul and Singapore the number of public waste bins amounted to 3000, 4400 and 7000 respectively. In Hong Kong the number of public waste bins amount to up to 43,000 which is six to fourteen times more than the 3 other cities. e amount of waste produced here is also higher than any other city. Merely putting the waste into rubbish bins will not make the waste disappear, it would just fill up all the bins which then get transferred to a larger dumping ground–the landfill. The bigger question is does Hong Kong generate too much waste, or are we running out of rubbish bins?

I recollect a conversation I had with an official from the Environmental Protection Department. He said, “In the past when we talked about waste management, representatives from Taiwan and Mainland China would come and learn from Hong Kong’s experience in how to build a landfill and waste treatment. Now they are far ahead in their concept of waste management and we are learning from their experiences.” e official basically felt that Hong Kong was lagging far behind the other countries.

With the rapid increase of waste, the key to solving the issue is reduction of waste at source and changing the lifestyle of over- consumption. The logic is simple, and yet it is strange that the government has many tools to eliminate waste but not many in reducing waste at source.

If Hong Kong wants to be on par with other international cities, it should at least put in a bigger effort on waste reduction at source.