A Long Way to Going Green
There are many ways for people to recycle in the local community in Hong Kong. However, these opportunities are relatively new in the historical sense because people are just now realizing the value of recycling and preserving the environment. Before, there was not widespread awareness about this issue, and people often did not care about recycling.
The effects of trash pollution can be seen very clearly in many places in Hong Kong, especially on the outlying islands of Lantau and Lamma. On these islands, it is easy to see trash buildup, and in some bay areas, the tide has pushed much of the trash ashore.
Knowing the importance of a clean environment to the health and happiness of the Hong Kong people, the government has mandated many different rules that all must abide by. For example, there are hefty fees for littering. In some cases, this offense can even be punishable by imprisonment. At the same time, the government has also made recycling a top priority, and has made recycling bins available on many different street corners.
What is the public sentiment about the state of the environment, and do young people think they play a role in protecting the environment? If so, how?
The overall public sentiment is relatively apathetic compared to many places in the world. Many people simply do not care because they are uneducated about the dangers of a polluted environment. This is especially the case for the older generations who have no knowledge about environmental responsibility and who only cared about getting the next meal. As Hong Kong is slowly developing over time, people are finding the time to care more, and they are becoming increasingly aware of the need to become effective in managing their environment. In addition, there is also the problem of water pollution.
Hong Kong is a major port city that deals with trade from all over the world. As such, its waterways are extremely polluted. However, many people in Hong Kong would rather maintain profitability of its ports rather than sacrifice their businesses in order to make the environment cleaner. However, many students are realizing the danger of ignorance and are making a stand in order to preserve the environment in and near Hong Kong. There are organizations now that believe that the Hong Kong government is not doing enough. These are organizations now that are trying to incentivize the average person in Hong Kong to join in the movement to make their home a cleaner place.
What innovative solutions do you observe, or hear people talking about?
One of the most interesting solutions to the environmental problem in Hong Kong is to incinerate piles of trash in specialty incinerators and use the energy generated from that process to create electricity for the city. When I first heard about incineration as a source of energy and waste reduction, I was very skeptical. However, I learned that this actually has been proven to be very effective in many parts of the world, such as in Sweden. Sweden has a similar system where much of its electricity is generated in incinerators. However, Sweden’s system is so effective that it actually wants to imports trash from Norway. This solution, if applied to Hong Kong, would not only take care of Hong Kong’s trash pollution problem, but it would also take care of any potential blackouts or such crises on the local energy grid.
Have there been changes to environmental laws lately, or have new systems of solid waste management been introduced in the past five years?
There have not been any sweeping changes to environmental laws lately, except for making the penalties for disobeying the laws more harsh. As of late, there has also been more enforcement of the law itself. When the law was first implemented, it was very difficult for law enforcement to enforce environmental laws because many people did not see the need for them or wanted to obey them. As time passed, however, more people started to understand the need for the laws, and they started to follow the laws due to stricter enforcement.
Are there any youth groups, community organizations, NGO or INGOs actively working to address solid waste management issues in your community? Who are they and what are they doing. What can we learn from them?
There are many NGOs that work with addressing solid waste management issues in the community. They are typically university-led organizations that actively try to bring about more awareness of the environmental issues that face Hong Kong. As for long-term organizations or NGOs that perform the same function, there are not very many. Hong Kong needs such an organization that will not fall apart because of membership fluctuations, and it needs people who are always active in the environmental sector.
One of the most interesting businesses I have seen during my stay in Hong Kong was started by a local friend of mine. His business is called Green Factor, and it is a fashion business that utilizes the “Green” movement in Hong Kong to sound hip and trendy, while being environmentally friendly by selling fashion items made of used clothes and accessories. For example, my friend showed me a pair of jeans he had designed that was just an old pair of jeans that had been treated and re-dyed. His work with Green Factor shows that an environmentally-friendly business can be started and sustained in many different ways. The success of Green Factor shows that environmentally-friendly companies can indeed be successful and even very profitable.
Going Green Global Check-list:
Are there trash cans located on public streets in Hong Kong? Yes
Do people living in individual homes recycle trash? Yes
Do grocery stores charge money for plastic bags? Yes
Are grocery items heavily packaged with plastic? Yes
Do people drink tap water? No