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Waste Management

Waste disposal charge will cost a typical Hong Kong family HK$51 a month

Environment minister reveals range of fees intended to meet target of a 40 per cent reduction in household waste by 2022

Hong Kong’s households will have to shell out around HK$33 to HK$51 a month to dispose of their rubbish when a long-awaited quantity-based charging scheme designed to change behaviour and reduce waste comes into force in two years.

Environment minister Wong Kam-sing said on Monday that charges for municipal solid waste – rubbish generated from homes, offices, factories and restaurants, a third of which comes from kitchens – would be imposed on all sectors in one go for the sake of fairness and in line with the “polluter pays” principle.

“Quantity-based waste charging aims to create financial incentives to drive behavioural changes in waste generation,” Wong said. “The biggest aim is to reduce overall waste disposal, not to increase government revenues.”

Residential buildings, village houses and street-level shops that use government refuse collection services will be required to buy one of nine types of rubbish bags of varying size, priced at an average 11 cents per litre. The charge will be 30 cents for the smallest, 3-litre bag, while the biggest 100-litre bag will cost HK$11.

A three-person household opting for the standard 15-litre bag – roughly the same size as a supermarket plastic bag – will pay about HK$1.70 a time, running a tab of about HK$51 per month. It will cost HK$1.10,or HK$33 per month, for 10-litre bags.

Oversized items that cannot fit into any of the nine designated bags must be tagged with a label that costs HK$11 for disposal.

Sold in packs of 10, the bags will be available at 4,000 sales points, including convenience stores, post offices, petrol stations and special vending machines.

Commercial and industrial buildings using private collection services will pay a landfill “gate fee”, based on the weight of the rubbish they produce. The tip fees will be set between HK$365 and HK$395 per tonne.

Details of the charging scheme were revealed by the Environmental Protection Department on Monday after years of public engagement. A bill will be tabled at the Legislative Council before the summer and, following its passage, the public will be given 12 to 18 months to prepare for the charging scheme. Full implementation is expected in the second half of 2019.

The average Hongkonger throws out about 1.39kg of household waste per day. A target was set in 2014 to slash that figure by 40 per cent by 2022. Wong said the city’s municipal solid waste had increased by over 80 per cent over the past 30 years, far outpacing the population growth of 34 per cent.

He said the government would step up enforcement at refuse collection stations and bin sites. Legislation could also empower public officers to carry out enforcement and spot checks within common areas of private residential estates.

waste-price

Fixed penalties for non-compliance have been set at HK$1,500.

Wong said the charges – which will be in place for three years – were “acceptable” and in line with practices in Taipei City and Seoul, both of which have seen significant waste reduction since levies were introduced.

World Green Organisation policy advocacy manager Angus Wong Chun-yin welcomed the scheme but said the departments involved would need to be clearer about how to divide labour and monitor and carry out enforcement in estates. “It still seems a bit clumsy,” he said.

Greeners Action executive director Angus Ho Hon-wai said the charging scheme’s impact would be greater if rates were set higher.

“At this rate, I believe it will be difficult for the government to meet the 2022 waste targets,” he said.

“But as a starting point, we can acquiesce.”

He said the government also needed to consider how property management companies of commercial buildings will divide tip fee costs equitably among tenants.

“What if I produce very little waste, why should I help pay for others? This is something they will need to think about.”
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2080508/11-cents-dump-1-litre-trash-hong-kong-government?_=1490065597228

Waste management problems are getting worse in Hong Kong

http://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/2064988/waste-management-problems-are-getting-worse-hong-kong#add-comment

Rarely has an organisation performed as miserably, every year, as the Environmental Protection Department in its waste management programme.

Its failure was highlighted in reports by the Audit Commission and the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee last year. Predictably, the department’s latest waste management report, for 2015, is no different.

Its two major targets have moved in the wrong direction five years in a row – the amount of waste per person disposed daily increased, while the waste recovery rate decreased. From 2014 to 2015, waste disposed went up (from 1.35 to 1.39kg), while waste recovered went down (from 36.5 to 35.4 per cent). That’s the worst performance in a decade.

In the Environment Bureau’s waste-management blueprint issued in 2013, the objective for the amount of waste per person disposed daily was set at 1kg by 2017 and 0.8kg by 2022. The recovery rate was to be 55 per cent by 2022.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing has talked up the blueprint for the past two years. But at a January 17 press conference, he was mum about waste management performance, except for an 8 per cent decrease in food waste, which is just 30 per cent of total domestic waste.

I have long argued that the blueprint’s waste disposal and recovery targets are unattainable.

Wong and his department seem incapable of grasping the simple equation governing waste management: waste disposed is equal to waste generated less waste recovered.

Imposing a waste-charging scheme cannot lower significantly the amount of waste disposed, unless there’s a commensurate increase in the amount of waste recovered.

And the waste recovery rate cannot increase much without waste separation at source.

Wong cited the success of South Korea and Taipei in reducing waste disposed by imposing waste charging. He omitted the crucial factor in their success: waste separation at source is required by law.

Waste-recovery companies in Hong Kong have to sell paper, plastic and metal to the mainland at market prices, which cannot be controlled by the Environment Bureau.

This means the current 36 per cent waste recovery rate cannot realistically increase to 55 per cent, which is the rate achieved by countries that successfully manage their waste.

At its 36 per cent waste recovery rate, Hong Kong needs to reduce waste generation by 40 per cent from the current level to achieve the 0.8kg average amount of waste per person disposed daily by 2022. In their dreams.

Tom Yam, Lantau

Hong Kong’s ‘producer pays’ e-waste levy to range from HK$15 to HK$165 per item

A long-awaited “producer pays” levy fee covering certain waste electrical and electronic equipment is likely to range between HK$15 and HK$165, according to a government paper.

Once fully implemented, manufacturers and importers will have to be registered and must bear the costs of properly recycling the items.

The proposed charges are HK$15 per item for computers, printers and scanners, HK$45 for monitors, HK$125 for washing machines and air-conditioning units, and HK$165 for television sets and refrigerators. They must be paid to the government on a quarterly basis.

Appliance sellers are also required to collect old appliances upon request from purchasers of new ones and deliver them to a licensed recycler for free.

Environmental Protection Department assistant director Samson Lai said the charges recovered the full costs of recycling and the scheme could be reviewed when appropriate. But he admitted that some retailers might try to pass some of the costs to consumers.

“The idea is based on a ‘polluter pays’ principle and creating a closed-loop recycling system in which e-waste is collected, processed and turned into resources via proper treatment,” he said. “It will also help reduce pressure on landfills.”

About 70,000 tonnes of e-waste is disposed of in the city each year, 80 per cent of which is exported and the rest usually landfilled locally – a situation the government says is unsustainable.

The government’s new treatment and recycling facility in Tuen Mun, scheduled for commissioning this year and operated by ALBA IWS, will have the capacity to handle 30,000 tonnes.

The latest updates will be discussed at the Legislative Council environmental affairs panel next week. Draft legislative amendments will be tabled to the council for scrutiny in the second quarter, with implementation expected in the third.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, director of environmental advocacy at the Green Earth, welcomed the updates but believed the levy rates were still quite low and would have minimal impact on producers.

Meanwhile, a report released on Sunday by United Nations University, the UN’s academic arm, found Hong Kong to have the highest e-waste per capita generation out of a dozen Asian countries, followed by Singapore and Taiwan.

The report attributed the average increase in e-waste generation over the region – 63 per cent from 2010 to 2015 – to more gadgets and consumers and devices being replaced more frequently.

Hong Kong and Singapore’s levels, it said, were particularly high because they did not yet have specific e-waste legislation. Both also had significant trans-boundary movements of e-waste generated domestically and in transit from other countries.

“Increasing the burden on existing waste collection and treatment systems results in flows towards environmentally unsound recycling and disposal,” co-author Ruediger Kuehr said.

An investigation by environmental group ¬Basel Action Network last year found Hong Kong to be a dumping ground for unwanted e-waste from the US [3].

Under the new scheme, a permit will be required for the importing and exporting of regulated e- waste. Regulated e-waste will also no longer be accepted at landfills.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2062599/hong-kongs-producer-pays-e-waste-levy-range-hk15

Hong Kong’s first integrated recycling plant for e-waste part of plans to make polluters pay

Operator looks to increase city’s recovery rate for electronic waste to at least 80 per cent as government implements “polluter pays” laws

The operator of Hong Kong’s first integrated recycling plant for electronics is hoping to increase the local recovery rate of such waste materials once its new facility and collection network become fully operational “on time and on budget” next year.

Packed into yellow steel cages, stacked two storeys high in a Sheung Shui warehouse are 200 tonnes of old bulky television sets, inkjet printers, scanners and refrigerators that the government contractor has been collecting since July. It will reach full capacity at 600.

The junk will be trucked off to the government’s first integrated treatment and recycling facility when it opens in the middle of next year at the Tuen Mun EcoPark – one of several measures to accommodate the government’s new “polluter pays” laws on certain types of electronic waste.

The producer responsibility scheme will include televisions, fridges, washing machines, computer products and air-conditioning units.

Passed in the legislature in March, once in effect, importers or distributors of the appliances will have to pay to help fund collection and disposal of waste electrical goods.

“In Europe, recycling is something expected, but in Hong Kong we’re still learning,” said ALBA IWS director Nigel Mattravers, the government contractor tasked with building and operating the facility and network.

The contractor is building five regional collection centres, including the one in Sheung Shui, to sort, store and record the e-waste, and eight satellite centres for collection only. Apart from helping businesses or NGOs conduct “take-back” services, the public can also drop e-waste off directly at the collection centres.

About 70,000 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment is disposed of in the city each year, 80 per cent of which is shipped off to regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia, while the rest is handled locally and dumped in a landfill.

The new facility will be able to handle 30,000 tonnes per year but the operator claims it will be able to increase capacity by extending operating hours if necessary.

“Much of this material is handled very badly across the world. At this facility we will recover all the hazardous materials from these appliances and make sure they are properly disposed of … and processed in a safe and environmentally sound fashion,” Mattravers said.

The products will be detoxified, dismantled and turned into secondary raw material such as plastics, alumina, copper or iron, which can be reused for manufacture or landfilled locally “in a clean manner”.

Mattravers said the target was to increase the local recovery rate to at least 80 per cent.

The Environmental Protection Department said reliance on exports to manage e-waste was not sustainable in the long run because demand for second-hand products overseas would decline over time.

Harmful materials found in e-waste, if not properly treated or disposed of, can harm the environment and human health.

ALBA IWS logistics manager Lawrence Cheung said the operator would have strict guidelines on waste collection such as by collecting only from a registered retailer or licensed recycler to avoid collecting illegally imported e-waste.

A two-year investigation by environmental group ¬Basel Action Network last year found Hong Kong to be a dumping ground for unwanted e-waste from the United States, in violation of the Basel Convention, which bars importation of hazardous waste.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2057273/hong-kongs-first-integrated-recycling-plant-e

Danish surplus-food stores show way for Hong Kong to cut food waste

http://www.scmp.com/print/lifestyle/food-drink/article/2049730/danish-surplus-food-stores-show-way-hong-kong-cut-food-waste?_=1480311512441

Wasteful Hong Kong, which consigns more than 25,000 tonnes of food to landfills every week, could learn a lesson from Denmark, where a supermarket selling surplus food has been so popular it recently opened a second store.

After launching in Copenhagen’s gritty inner city district of Amager earlier this year, the Wefood project this month attracted long queues as it opened a second branch in Norrebro, a trendy neighbourhood popular with left-leaning academics and immigrants.

Hipsters rubbed shoulders with working-class mums as a cooking school founded by Claus Meyer – a co-founder of Copenhagen’s celebrated Noma restaurant – handed out cauliflower soup and bread made from surplus ingredients.

“It’s awesome that instead of throwing things out they are choosing to sell it for money. You support a good cause,” says Signe Skovgaard Sorensen, a student, after picking up a bottle of upscale olive oil for 20 kroner (HK$22).

“Isn’t it great?” pensioner Olga Fruerlund says, holding up a jar of sweets that she planned to give to her grandchildren for Christmas. The sweets “can last for a hundred years because there is sugar in them”, she adds.

Selling expired food is legal in Denmark as long as it is clearly advertised and there is no immediate danger to consuming it. “We look, we smell, we feel the product and see if it’s still consumable,” project leader Bassel Hmeidan says.

All products are donated by producers, import and export companies and local supermarkets, and are collected by Wefood’s staff, all of whom are volunteers. The store’s profit goes to charity.

Prices are around half of what they would be elsewhere, but even its biggest fans would struggle to do their weekly shop here. The products available depend on what is available from donors, resulting in an eclectic mix that changes from day to day.

One weekday afternoon, Wefood customers were greeted by a mountain of Disney and Star Wars-branded popcorn, while the fresh fruit section had been reduced to a handful of rotting apples.

In Hong Kong, food banks solicit food past its sell-by date from supermarkets and other stores, but the response has not been encouraging.

“Managers always like to tell of how some stores used to donate until they got sued. This is particularly true since strict liability is imposed on food products,” Wendell Chan, project officer at Friends of the Earth (HK), recently wrote in the South China Morning Post.

“We estimate that businesses throw out HK$60 million worth of food yearly when almost half of low-income families lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food,” he wrote.

Writing ahead of World Food Day on October 16, Chan said Hong Kong throws out more than 3,600 tonnes of food as waste every day.

Food waste has become an increasingly hot topic in recent years, with initiatives ranging from a French ban last year on destroying unsold food products, to a global network of cafes serving dishes with food destined for the scrap heap.

British-based The Real Junk Food Project also opened the country’s first food waste supermarket in a warehouse near the northern city of Leeds in September. With a greater focus than its Danish peer on feeding the poor, the British project urges customers to simply “pay as they feel”.

A United Nations panel said earlier this month that supermarkets’ preference for perfect looking produce and the use of arbitrary “best before” labels cause massive food waste that, if reversed, could feed the world’s hungry.

Nearly 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year, more than enough to sustain the one billion people suffering from hunger globally, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says.

Denmark has managed to reduce its food waste by 25 per cent over the past five years, partly due to the influential “Stop Wasting Food” group founded by Russian-born activist Selina Juul in 2008.

Juul grew up in the 1980s Soviet Union and says she was shocked by the amount of food being thrown away in Denmark when she moved there as a 13-year-old in 1993.

“Surplus food has become very popular,” she says of one of the measures advocated by the group: offering heavy discounts on items that are about to expire, which is now done by most Danish supermarkets.

Inspired by Juul, one of Denmark’s biggest discount chains, Rema 1000, has become an unlikely champion in the battle against food waste. Two of its main initiatives are about reducing waste after the product has been sold: the company stopped offering bulk discounts in 2008 so that single-person households would not buy more than they could eat.

Last year it reduced the size and price of some of its bread loaves for the same reason.

“The biggest problem with food waste is among the customers,” says John Wagner, the chief executive of the Danish Grocers’ Association. Regular supermarkets are becoming better at forecasting demand for different products, but they need to do more to inform their customers that a lot of food is edible beyond its expiry date.

Wefood next year plans to open in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, but Wagner says the brand is unlikely to become a major chain.

“The problem should be solved before we get to the point where we have to give the products to a store like Wefood,” he says.

Additional reporting by Mark Sharp
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/food-drink/article/2049730/danish-surplus-food-stores-show-way-hong-kong-cut-food-waste?_=1480311512441

Auditor finds massive increase in illegal dumping of construction waste in Hong Kong

The report from the Audit Commission came a week after the Office of the Ombudsman announced it would launch a probe into the environmental protection, planning and conservation departments handling of illegal landfilling

The Environmental Protection Department lost HK$4 billion in foregone revenue over the last decade due to “significant under-recovery” of costs in providing disposal and sorting facilities for construction waste, according to the government auditor.

The department was slammed for lax enforcement over the illegal dumping of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, with the number of reported cases across the city tripling from 1,500 in 2005 to 6,500 last year.

The report from the Audit Commission came a week after the Office of the Ombudsman announced it would launch a probe [1] into the environmental protection, planning and conservation departments handling of illegal landfilling and fly-tipping cases on private land.

“In 2014-15, only 33 per cent, 44 per cent and 63 per cent of the costs of providing disposal services at sorting facilities, public fill banks and landfills were respectively recovered from the charges,” the auditor stressed. “From 2006-07 to 2014-15, the estimated unrecovered cost totalled HK$3.81 billion.”

The auditor stressed that charge rates under the existing scheme had not been revised or reviewed since 2006, despite nearly 10 years of repeated requests by the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau. It has only recently agreed to do so based on a “user-pay principle”.

“The lack of revisions to the charge rates in the past years to recover the costs incurred had reduced the effectiveness of the charging scheme on providing economic incentives for producers of abandoned C&D materials to reduce generation … practise waste sorting,” it said.

The Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) currently charges HK$27 per tonne at public fill banks, HK$100 at sorting facilities and HK$125 at landfills.

The auditor urged the EPD to work with the CEDD to take measures to ensure fees and charges were “revised in a timely manner,” having regard to full-cost recovery principles, environmental implications and the impact on trade.

The EPD was also held to account for inadequacies in enforcing cases of illegal dumping.

It cited a trial scheme involving the installation of camera systems last year, in which 170 cases of illegal dumping of C&D materials was caught on tape. As of July 2016, the EPD had only taken prosecution action on 46 cases, the auditor said.

The slow progress was blamed on letters to vehicle owners being returned unclaimed, drivers or vehicle owners not providing details of cases and drivers claiming the dumping was carried out “under instruction”.

Both the directors of environmental protection and civil engineering and development said they agreed with the auditor’s report, pledging to strengthen actions to detect and prevent illegal dumping of waste and acknowledging that charging scheme needed to be adjusted.

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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2048766/auditor-finds-massive-increase-illegal-dumping

Hong Kong landfills overflow as household waste rises for fifth year running

The amount of waste dumped in the city’s overflowing landfills has risen for the fifth year in row with the bulk of it still coming from households, new data has shown.

Two-thirds, or 3.7 million tonnes, of the 5.5 million tonnes of solid waste discarded last year was comprised of municipal solid waste – rubbish generated domestically from homes, and commercial or industrial activities – most of it food, paper and plastics. The remaining 1.8 million tonnes was mainly comprised of waste from the construction sector.

The city discarded 3.57 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2014, 3.48 million tonnes in 2013, 3.4 million tonnes in 2012, 3.28 million in 2011 and 3.3 million in 2010.

Environmental authorities in 2014 implemented a blueprint to cut per capita municipal solid waste disposal by 20 per cent by 2017 and 40 per cent by 2022.

“Between 2010 and 2015, the amount increased at an average rate of 1.9 per cent per year, outpacing population growth of 0.8 per cent but slower than economic growth of 2.9 per cent,” according to a research brief by the Legislative Council secretariat.

A full set of official 2015 waste data will be released by the government before the end of the year.

Recycling rates for municipal waste dropped 23 per cent in the same period, driven by a sharp decline in plastic recycling caused by fluctuations in waste import and exports.

While household waste remained the lion’s share of the mix of municipal solid waste, the brief pointed out that this proportion was shrinking. The share from the commercial and industrial sector rose from 27 per cent in 2010 to 36 per cent last year.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, who heads environmental advocacy for The Green Earth was “not optimistic” that the government would meet either target if waste charging was not legislated soon.

“At stake will be whether or not the government can get a bills committee formed for the waste charging bill before the end of the first quarter next year,” he said. “The volume of waste disposal is still increasing and whatever they’re doing now, it’s not stopping the bleeding.”

The Environment Bureau hopes to prepare the necessary legislative proposals for the implementation within the legislative term.

It has hinted at the need to introduce mandatory source separation for food waste to ensure diversion of food waste from landfills and to maximise the recycling potential of food waste.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2048341/hong-kong-landfills-overflow-household-waste-rises

Ombudsman to probe Hong Kong government’s handling of illegal waste dumping cases on private land

Watchdog seeks public views and information on government’s control over landfilling and fly-tipping activities

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2046612/ombudsman-probe-hong-kong-governments-handling

The Ombudsman will launch a direct investigation into possible inadequacies of the environmental protection, planning and conservation departments in handling illegal landfilling and fly-tipping cases on private land.

The self-initiated probe by the government watchdog comes amid an increased frequency of such activities in the New Territories and on Lantau Island, where loopholes in planning and waste disposal regulations often fail to curb destructive activities.

“Even though actions were taken by the departments concerned, those actions were criticised as futile and ineffective by different sectors of the community,” the office of the watchdog said on Wednesday.

Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing said the three government departments fell within the ambit of the investigation and that the focus of the probe would be on powers, responsibilities, mechanisms and procedures in regard to the control of such illegal landfilling and waste dumping. This would include their enforcement action and its outcomes.

“The aim is to identify inadequacies in the current legal framework, system and enforcement regime,” Lau’s office said.

In a bid to make the investigation “more comprehensive”, the watchdog is seeking views from the public and those affected from now until December 16.

Green groups have long raised concerns about private land – often old agricultural lots near or within ecologically sensitive sites such as country parks – being filled or dumped on in what they describe as “destroy first, develop later” tactics.

A massive “waste hill” in Tin Shui Wai drew public outcry earlier this year and exposed a thicket of government red tape and entangled bureaucracy in response and enforcement.

Meanwhile, a court fight with the government continues over private land dumping in Lantau’s Pui O coastal protection area.

Roy Ng Hei-man of the Conservancy Association welcomed the Ombudsman’s initiative and urged it to pitch real policy and regulatory changes.

“It’s a systematic problem. We have long held the view that amendments are needed in the waste disposal and town planning ordinances,” Ng said. “Those involved can still take advantage of many legal loopholes.”

One example, he said, was the waste disposal ordinance, which he stressed could not regulate illegal dumping on private land even in light of the environmental impact.

Ng also questioned why the Lands Department was left out of the investigation.

The departments said they would cooperate fully when the probe begins.

How many earths do we need, if the rest of the world consumed as much as Hong Kong?

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2043119/how-many-earths-do-we-need-if-rest-world-consumed

Hongkongers consume so much that if everyone else in the world lived like us, we would need almost four Planet Earths to sustain us.

Hong Kong’s ecological footprint per capita, or the area required to sustain a person’s use of natural resources, has reached a historic high, according to a study by conservation body WWF, released last week. The city’s footprint is the second largest in Asia, behind Singapore, and 17thin the world.

About 3.9 earths would be needed to sustain humanity’s lifestyle if everyone consumed at the same rate as Hongkongers, the report said.

worst-offenders

The city’s footprint grew to 6.7 global hectares (gha) per person this year from 5.4 gha in 2014, when we would have needed three Planet Earths if everyone in the world lived like Hongkongers. Global hectares measure the average productivity of land and sea areas.

Worldwide, the average footprint per capita is 2.8 gha and we would need 1.6 earths to support this rate, the study showed.

Allen To Wai-lun, assistant manager of WWF-Hong Kong’s Footprint Programme, said although there were minor changes to the study’s methodology, the results clearly show a trend of unsustainable consumption.

Daily consumption by individuals, households and businesses are responsible for 76 per cent of Hong Kong’s footprint – 57 per cent of which comprises consumption involving personal transport, food, clothing, electricity, gas and other fuels.

The largest portion is made up of local carbon dioxide emissions and the carbon embodied in the products we use, many of which are imported.

“We buy too much stuff. We don’t have a sense of connecting our consumption to the deteriorating environment,” To said. “Changing the lifestyles of people is not easy.

But to alleviate [this problem] we need to consume less, and consume wisely.”

According to To, the city’s growing footprint can be attributed to fast fashion trends and meat consumption. The trend of readily available clothing at cheaper prices increased our cotton consumption, causing us to use more cropland, he said.

Added to that, increased meat consumption, particularly beef, has also led to more greenhouse gas emissions and contributed to climate change. The city also imports seafood from over 170 territories worldwide, ranking second in Asia and seventh globally in terms of per capita seafood consumption.

Ng Cho-nam, associate professor of geography at the University of Hong Kong, said cities usually had lower productivity due to lack of natural resources, and a high rate of consumption. This impacts their ecological footprint. Although countries like Australia consume lots of resources, their net deficit is small because they also produce a lot, according to Ng.

“When comparing a city with a country, then the city will have a bigger deficit as cities are the biggest places for consumption,” Ng said.

“We rely heavily on consuming imported goods. We enjoy cheap stuff, and then we export the pollution. We also have a huge number of tourists, [which] are top consumers,” Ng added.

In recent years, overexploitation, pollution, habitat loss and other consequences of unsustainable consumption has led to the deterioration of wildlife, fisheries and natural environments, as well as increased carbon accumulation in the atmosphere, WWF said.

Global wildlife populations could decline by more than two-thirds by 2020 compared to 1970 levels, WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016 showed. Between 1970 and 2012, populations of fish, mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians decreased by 58 per cent.

Local wildlife populations have also deteriorated. Numbers of the Hong Kong grouper have declined by 63 per cent in two decades, and the fish is now an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List – an inventory of the conservation status of species. Another fish, the golden threadfin bream, has decreased by 30 per cent in 10 years, while the three-striped box turtle is now critically endangered.

“Hong Kong certainly plays a role in wildlife trading through legal and illegal means [through the] consumption of shark fins, some coral reef fish, pets, reptiles, corals and more,” Ng said. “There are lots of wild birds being traded in Hong Kong, as well as animals whose body parts are used for traditional Chinese medicine like tigers and rhinos.”

In February, the Consumer Council released a report showing that 75 per cent of Hongkongers are prepared to pay more for sustainable products. But the government had yet to take adequate action, activist groups said. Now, the city’s Council for Sustainable Development is also conducting a public consultation that ends on November 15, seeking views on how to make our consumption more sustainable.

According to Ng, since the government is one of Hong Kong’s biggest consumers, it should include more products such as building materials under its green purchasing policy, to ensure that it takes the lead in sustainable consumption. More stringent labelling systems for green products would also allow consumers to make informed decisions, he added.

Allen To from WWF-Hong Kong said the government should provide incentives for consumers and businesses to trade and consume in a more sustainable manner. The city could take up green credit systems that are now being used in countries like South Korea, where consumers can receive points and other rewards when buying green products. They can then use the rewards to purchase other sustainable items or take public transport, he said.

Edwin Lau Che-fung, executive director of eco-friendly charity Green Earth, echoed the sentiments and urged the government to implement legislation to increase sustainability and reduce waste levels – such as more producer responsibility schemes requiring manufacturers, distributors and retailers to share the duty of collecting, recycling, treating and disposing products.

“There is still a lot of room for our government to take aggressive action towards lowering the ecological footprint for the whole of Hong Kong,” Lau said. “We are currently using the resources that we are borrowing from our future generations.”

WHAT IS AN ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT?

The ecological footprint refers to the total area required to sustain a person or community’s use of natural resources and shows their impact on the environment.

DEMAND AREAS:

• Cropland for producing food and fibre, including oil crops and rubber
• Grazing land for raising livestock
• Fishing grounds for marine and inland water ecosystems to generate primary production, which supports seafood catch and aquaculture
• Forest for providing fuel wood, timber products and pulp
• Built-up land or biologically productive areas for infrastructure
• Forests as primary ecosystems for long-term storage or sequestration of carbon to slow or reverse the build-up of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere

FACTORS:

• Daily consumption of seafood and meat
• Daily consumption of timber and paper products
• Carbon dioxide emissions including those resulting from the trade of goods

Source: WWF-Hong Kong

CONSEQUENCES OF HUMAN ACTIVITY

WILDLIFE

On average, some monitored animal species declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012 as a result of unsustainable agriculture, mining, fisheries and other human activities. The population sizes of vertebrate species dropped by more than half in just over 40 years, with an average annual decline of 2 per cent.

TROPICAL FORESTS AND GRASSLANDS

As of 2000, 45.8 per cent of the world’s temperate grasslands and 48.5 per cent of the world’s tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forest habitats have been converted for human use.

FRESHWATER ENVIRONMENTS

Freshwater habitats have been damaged by pollution, dams, invasive aquatic species and unsustainable water extractions. Freshwater accounts for only 0.01 per cent of the world’s water, but it is home to nearly 10 per cent of the world’s known species.

MARINE LIFE

Between 1970 and 2012, marine life experienced an overall decline of 36 per cent. Overfishing is the most common threat to fish populations, and 31 per cent of global fish stocks are overfished.

CORAL REEFS

Three-quarters of the world’s coral reefs are now threatened and facing large-scale extinction as a result of mass bleaching and acidification. Although reefs cover less than 0.1 per cent of the ocean, they support over 25 per cent of all marine fish species. Threats to reefs include greenhouse gases, pollution, overfishing and coastal development.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Changes in temperature can confound signals for seasonal events such as reproduction and migration, causing them to occur at the wrong time. Some species will also have to adapt by shifting their migration range in search of suitable climate.

Source: Living Planet Report 2016 by WWF-Hong Kong in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and Global Footprint Network

Grand Hyatt Singapore’s effort in reducing waste production in Singapore

http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/blog/2016/08/04/grand-hyatt-singapores-effort-in-reducing-waste-production-in-singapore/

Grand Hyatt Singapore implements organic food waste management system, reducing waste production of the hotel and converts the waste into useable fertiliser.

The hotel received a grant of S$250,000 through the 3R (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle) Fund for the installation and implementation of the system. The grant is calculated based on key outcomes such as the actual quantity of waste reduced or recycled.

The 3R Fund, created by the National Environmental Agency, is a co-funding scheme to encourage organisations to undertake waste minimisation and recycling projects.

This new organic food waste management system touches on the first and the third of the three focus points in Hyatt’s 2020 sustainability plans.

The installation and implementation system uses two individual systems that operate in sequence:

• an integrated food waste disposal system which extracts water, grinds and compacts food waste from the restaurants and event kitchens
• a ‘Rapid Thermophilic Digestion System’ which then converts compacted food waste into pathogen-free organic fertiliser.

The ‘Rapid Thermophilic Digestion System’ subsequently recycles the compacted food waste into organic fertiliser and this will be used only for the hotel’s landscaping purposes.

This innovative system enables the hotel to keep 100% of its organic food waste out of the city’s landfills – drastically reducing the property’s overall waste production and will be good for environment of the city.

The hotel said that this will also boost productivity and hygiene levels, as food waste will be transferred into the integrated in-feed stations located at various dishwashing and food preparation areas, and transported via the vacuum system into the centralised grinder and dewatering unit.

As a result, manpower is no longer required to physically move food waste into the waste compacters. About 55,000 trash bags will be saved each year, and this further contributes to the green efforts of this project which has an estimated payback period of less than 3 years.

This new waste recycling infrastructure saves Grand Hyatt Singapore approximately S$100,000 a year in food waste haulage fees and operational expenses. By eliminating the need for food waste haulage, the hotel will further reduce its carbon footprint.

Spearheaded by Executive Chef Lucas Glanville, this milestone achievement would also not have been possible without the dedication of Grand Hyatt Singapore’s Business Analyst Darrell Tan, Director of Engineering Ivan Leong, Stewarding Manager Vijay Sivarajah and the secretarial support of Anita Lukman.

Food waste is created in Singapore every single day from our food cycle – production, distribution, retail to consumption – and the wastage is huge and still looming to become a problem for the country.

According to the National Environment Agency, Singapore wasted approximately 790,000 tonnes of food in 2014 and it’s still looming to become a problem to the country.

Typically, food waste would go to a landfill where it would decompose, or it would go to an incinerator.

“The issue with landfills obviously is the emissions of landfill gas, which is basically methane. This is a very bad greenhouse gas – it is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide,” said Mr Edwin Khew, chairman of the Association of Sustainable Energy (SEAS)

At the present, burning food waste is Singapore’s primary method of waste disposal which uses enormous amounts of energy to do.

Singapore has only one landfill left – Semakau Landfill – and it is expected to run out of space if habits do not change.

It has been reported that Singapore’s landfill will run out of space between 2035 and 2045, if the nation continues to dispose of more than three million tonnes of rubbish a year.