With no full scale-recycling plants and a territory that covers just 427 square miles, Hong Kong doesn’t have much space for the 15,000 tons of trash it generates each day. One solution has been to ship waste to China. But yesterday China notified the World Trade Organization its intent to forbid 24 kinds of solid wastes by the end of 2017.
Vice has a long piece exploring how Hong Kong handles its waste given the constraints it is facing:
The government's proposed answers for dealing with Hong Kong's garbage problem, such as building an incinerator that would emit toxic pollutants into the city's air while burning trash, are often radically unsustainable. And while Hong Kong does recycle some materials, the city is unable to reap most of the benefits of doing so because the recyclables are sent abroad.
In Hong Kong's landfills, waste is compacted before being covered with a layer of soil at night. The water that seeps through that decomposing waste is then treated in facilities. The government's legislature acknowledged in a panel over a decade ago that the highly toxic substance, called leachate, runs off into the city's groundwater.
"We understand that the current practice of disposing of food waste at landfills is neither sustainable nor environmentally desirable," Joanna Tse, a spokesperson for the government's Environmental Protection Department (EPD), said in a written statement provided to Motherboard. "In the future, landfill space will be more prudently used as a last resort."