Hong Kong launches plan to tackle waste crisis

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong on Monday launched a ten-year plan to reduce waste by 40 per cent per person as part of efforts to catch up with other leading Asian cities and avert a looming environmental crisis.

With a population of more than 7 million, the city currently sends 1.27 kg per person per day to three huge outdoor landfill sites which are set to reach capacity by 2020.

The government's 'blueprint' document proposed reaching its reduction target by expanding recycling, levying duties on household rubbish and improving waste-related infrastructure.

It also mooted the possibility of building incinerators and extending existing landfill sites.

"To face the challenges of the waste issue fundamentally, we need the joint efforts of the entire community to embrace an environmentally sustainable culture in daily life," the city's environmental minister Wong Kam Sing told reporters.

"We are committed to taking all the necessary decisions and actions now so we can put Hong Kong on a clear path...towards a use less, waste less lifestyle," Mr Wong said in the document.

The government hopes to recycle 55 per cent of the city's waste, incinerate 23 per cent and place 22 per cent in landfills by 2022. In 2011, 52 per cent of waste was put into landfills and 48 per cent recycled.

But the proposal to build an incinerator is unpopular with residents and some environmentalists.

Other possible measures include an expansion of food-waste recycling, a waste separation and collection system, a charge on construction waste and landfill extensions.

The majority of the 9,000 tonnes of rubbish generated in Hong Kong each day is from households, business and industry and made primarily of putrescibles, paper and plastics, the report said.

The southern Chinese city has a high waste generation rate compared to other Asian cities of similar economic development, Mr Wong said, adding that Hong Kong is behind because it has not taken enough steps to reduce waste.

Hong Kong's generation of waste per person is higher than other large Asian cities, including Metro Tokyo and Seoul which generate only 0.77 kg and 0.95 kg of daily waste per person, according to the document.

Mr Wong also offered Taipei as an example where a volume-based waste fee system helped reduced waste per person by 65 per cent from 2000 to 2011, according to Taiwan Environmental Authority statistics.

The city's Environmental Protection Department had previously published a 10-year framework for managing the city's waste in 2005 but has been criticised for failing to implement much of the plan.

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