Hong Kong: King of Wastage


How much waste are you producing everyday? Yes, we all know there’s environmental problems to care about. But how much action have we put into it to solve the problem?

I live in Hong Kong, one of the most wasteful cities in the world. In 2010, we were coined the most wasteful city in the world.

This graph below shows the total amount of waste disposed in landfills daily by year. From the graph, despite the environmental policies the government had implemented throughout this decade, the rate at which solid waste was disposed at Hong Kong landfills had not decreased (and only increased).

Basically, just more and more waste is generated in Hong Kong.


Source: Monitoring of Solid Waste in HK: Waste Statistics for 2014

Imagine all that waste we are creating each day. In Hong Kong, in 2014 alone, almost 15000 tonnes of waste were disposed each day. Imagine that number multiplied 365 days in a year.

Almost 10000 tonnes were created by Domestic, Commercial and Industrial Waste. This means the trash from our households, offices and factories. This is waste we can save!

As a normal Hong Kong citizen, I didn’t know until this moment that the Environmental Bureau of the Hong Kong Government had built up a plan “Plan E” (I guess E for Environmental) to change our city to become environmentally friendly. This table is a summary of the goals:


Source: Hong Kong Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022

Plan E

The Vision of this Plan E (I think E for Environmental) is “To instill environmental-sustainable culture in Hong Kong people’s daily life“. The target, “to reduce Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) by 40%  on a per capita basis by 2022, will specifically aim to reduce the current per capita MSW disposal of 1.27 kg per day to 0.8 kg per day by 2022“.

As ideal as this scheme sounds to everyone, had it not occurred that the disposal of MSW in Hong Kong had just been kept at around the same level in the past decade?

I had been particularly concerned with policy direction #2

“Make all out efforts to mobilize the community to participate”

The reason why I’m so surprised, is that I sent the image above (in green) to about 10 of my closest friends and family (all Hong Kong local residents), and literally none of them realized that the government had such great environmental goals for Hong Kong.

How could these goals be succeeded if the community of Hong Kong don’t even know about the plans of the government?

At least, the government needs to educate the citizens and make them voluntary participate.

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When comparing Hong Kong to other Asian countries, the daily domestic waste generation rate per capita is 1.36kg, significant more than Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo.

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This bar chart above shows the proportion of waste in which it is waste is managed.

Hong Kong, already with the highest generation of waste (from Figure 2), has the most inefficient waste management structure.

HK’s waste is 52% in landfill and 48% in recycling. 

Whilst other larger developed Asian cities have moved to incineration or other waste-to-energy processing technology and almost no landfill, Hong Kong’s main waste processing method remains as LANDFILL, 52%. Japan literally has no landfills, Singapore and Taiwan are at a mere 1and 2%, with South Korea at 19% but working on it to reduce their waste with great waste managing technology.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong says that its recycling 48% of its waste. I am wondering how trustworthy is the source of the information that had came from the official government documents. A few days ago, an article by South China Morning Post mentioned that only 17% of water bottles are successfully recovered for recycling, whilst the world international average was 37%.

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Pie chart showing the compositions of different MSW in Hong Kong.

In a typical rubbish bin, there may be a lot of food and leftovers of bones (40%), as well as other things. Putrescibles are actually organic, and when other in the countryside, it can be just thrown away as it is bio-degradable.

This is what we can do first – we can sort by sorting out our rubbish! In each household, we should put a small big that contains things we can bring to the recycle bin.

If you would like to know more about the nearest recycle bin by GPS:

iTunes Appstore: https://goo.gl/p5XUsP

Google Play: https://goo.gl/VpUY3m

Watch more about FOOD WASTE. A whooping 1/3 of the waste in Hong Kong comes from leftover food. When you order too much and leave food…think about where the waste goes in Hong Kong. Landfills only. Let’s not compromise our future generations…

Please watch this TED Talk: Tristram Stuart: The global food waste scandal


Hong Kong Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022 (2014). Retrieved May 31, 2016 from The Government of Hong Kong, Environment Bureau Web site: http://www.enb.gov.hk/en/files/WastePlan-E.pdf

Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong – Waste Statistics for 2014 (2015). Retrieved May 31, 2016 from Government of Hong Kong, Environmental Protection Department Web site: https://www.wastereduction.gov.hk/sites/default/files/msw2014.pdf





Must a luxurious life mean Wastage?


What does it really mean to be ‘luxurious’? Is it creating a lot of excess, making a lot of wastage? LUXURY from the dictionary means “a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense.” It is typically an inessential item that is expensive. WASTE is the unusable or unwanted material that is discarded after its primary use – during production, transformation or consumption – has been completed (adapted from the definition from the United Nations.

Since when I was young, I was taught to finish all the food on my plate (unless the excess leftovers could be taken home). It’s just basic ethics – my parents had very traditionally taught me that I ought to be grateful that I am being fed, whilst there are many children and people in poorer developing countries that may have no food to even survive.

In the past week, I’ve been living in the shoes like a luxurious food lover. I’ve brought around my friend who came to visit Hong Kong, the city most famous for good and a large variety of food. Now it’s like living the life of a glutton (by definition: a person who over-indulges and over-consumes food to the point of extravagance or waste). We ordered many things – most of the time too much in terms of portion – but ended up order more than we could eat, as we ordered additionally food so to ‘try a large variety of foods’ (another way to say it would be greedy). However, when the food arrives and some photo-taking, I’ve observed some people tend to take a bite or two, then says “had enough of it” “can’t eat anymore of the same thing” “need to save the stomach for the next meal” “what food are we going next?”

Honestly this gluttonous and insatiable attitude in the past week haunts me; since I terribly dislike the idea of wastage.


Tai Ping Koon Restaurant – Lunch

This photo above was from lunch past week at Tai Ping Koon Restaurant, a famous traditional Chinese-Western fusion restaurant in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. The food looked great and tasted delicious, but it was too much for six people to finish. By the end, we left two portions of pasta and rice untouched, so the waiter came by and said “Finished? Sure?” I felt very embarrassed of us wasting so much food We really tried our best to eat as much as we could, but actually now that I think about it, eating in excess after we’ve reached the necessary level of food, is it counted as waste too? Waste that is stored in our bodies instead. I almost couldn’t tell the difference.


Today I passed by Hong Kong’s recent ‘trendy’ supermarket, 759Store. It’s a low-end supermarket which sells almost all kinds of packaged foods you can think of. They sell a large diversity of direct-import popular Korean and Japanese snacks, instant noodles, kitchen utensils, hygienic products (even expanding into proper canteen-like restaurants). From its first store in 2010, it had expanded to 247 stores all around Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories in March 2015 (see its official website).

All the products sold here are relatively cheap to anywhere else. This is their main business strategy

  • Fast horizontal expansion
  • Economies of scale (buying in bulk results in lower long-run costs per unit)
  • Lowered costs of food supply
  • More packaged foods are demand at the lower price (higher consumption!)

For example, 759Store is famous for its variety of instant noodles. Read my other post about Instant Noodles vs Palm Oil.

As cheap as these supermarkets or for all food may be, the “consumers are not paying for the true cost of food”. Jason Clay, TEDGlobal 2010. For all the food that we consumers buy, and think about all the raw materials the producers i.e. the farmers input water for irrigation, actually “the farmer didn’t receive enough money to pay a decent price for water in any of those commodities” – this term being “externality – a subsidy from nature“. (Listen to TEDTalk by Jason Clay)

Think of all the externalities, benefits or costs done to the third party, before consuming a product. For every action we take, we ought to know how to think about the consequences behind it. This works for everything in life. We can’t take the Earth for granted.

For example, self-control comes in hand when we stop ourselves eating the next cookie knowing it’s more than you need, and you think of the consequences eating the next cookie – you will get fat.

We can put this ideal for the environment too. As luxurious as you can eat now, waste food now, be selfish, but our finite resources will run out one day at this rate. So we ought to think of the consequences we do for our future selves or kids.

Too much waste is produced. We should use less We, as consumers, in this process we just buy the products. So what can we do?

  • Think before purchasing. Do I really need this? Be practical and rational.
  • Once you’ve bought it, you’re responsible for the product you’ve bought (includes its residues and remains).
  • For example, for food:
    • Don’t waste food. Order just ‘enough’ food. You can order less first to get an idea of portions.
    • Bring an environmentally friendly container to bring away leftovers.
    • Mark down expiration dates on the fridge or a memo.

Population is growing rapidly, and this prediction comes from many CENSUS reports, the current world population in 2016 (May) is 7.4 billion people (source). The projection for world population in 2050 is 9.6 billion people (source from the UN).

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Whatever was sustainable on a planet of six billion is not going to be sustainable on a planet with nine.” – Jason Clay, TEDGlobal2010.

  • In 2016, the number of Earths that we need at this moment to sustain us is 1.6 Earths (we are using 60% more than the Earth’s natural capacity).
  • What will happen when it’s 2050?!