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Average Hongkonger sent 1.39kg per day of solid waste to landfills, up 3pc on last year

Authorities attribute surge to more commercial and industrial waste being dumped in wake of ‘relatively buoyant local economy’

The average Hongkonger sent 1.39kg of municipal solid waste into landfills per day last year, marking a 3 per cent rise from the year before and the highest level in 10 years, though notable reductions in food and special waste were recorded, new official data revealed.

The Environmental Protection Department attributed the increase to more commercial and industrial waste being dumped, which in turn was partly attributable to a “relatively buoyant local economy” last year.

The average volume of municipal solid waste sent to the tips in 2014 was 1.35kg per capita per day.

Recycling rates for municipal solid waste also fell – from 37 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent last year – driven by significant declines in recovery rates for waste paper and plastics, which fell by 52,000 and 5,000 tonnes respectively.

Every day last year, the city disposed of some 2,257 tonnes of waste paper and 2,183 tonnes of waste plastic in landfills – 17.5 and 8.3 per cent more than the previous year.

The two categories each account for about one fifth of the municipal solid waste mix.

Meanwhile, the volume of plastic PET bottles (made of polyethylene terephthalate) disposed of alone grew 3 per cent last year as recycling rates nearly slumped in half from 14 per cent to just 7.6 per cent.

The low waste recovery rates were blamed on a dismal international market for recyclables in the past few years, resulting in a “dampening effect” on demand as well as on the prices of local recyclables.

However, the amount of landfilled food waste – comprising one third of municipal waste – saw a surprise retreat of 7.1 per cent last year to 3,382 tonnes, or about 0.46kg per person daily. The change was largely driven by households’ kitchen waste.

The department claimed the drop could “well be a result of efforts made by many sectors of the community” in response to various government initiatives intended to “nurture a culture of reducing food waste at source and to donate surplus food to the needy”.

Environmental group The Green Earth said the sustained high disposal rates stemmed from a variety of factors: a lack of volume-based waste charging, the delayed commissioning of an organic waste treatment facility for food waste, and a downturn in the recycling trade.

It urged the government to speed up legislation for municipal solid waste-charging to curb the growth of industrial and commercial waste. It also advocated implementing more producer responsibility laws and regulations for items such as plastic bottles and beverage containers.

A department spokesman said it would continue to “vigorously implement policies on waste avoidance and reduction, including municipal solid waste charging and producer responsibility schemes”.

It is understood the Environment Bureau hopes to prepare corresponding legislative proposals within the current legislative term.

Of the 5.5 million tonnes of solid waste discarded last year, two-thirds, or 3.7 million tonnes, was municipal solid waste: that is, rubbish generated domestically from homes, and commercial or industrial activities. Most of it comprised food, paper and plastics.

The remaining 1.8 million tonnes primarily consisted of waste from the construction sector, or special waste, which includes livestock, radioactive, grease trap waste and sewage sludge.

The amount of special waste discarded in landfills fell by 34.5 per cent last year due to the commissioning of a new treatment facility in Tuen Mun, which incinerates sewage sludge into residue and ash.
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