A living network that promotes and supports the small businesses and community initiatives that are crucial to the well-being of our neighborhoods.

Trash Matters: A new approach to waste?

The saying goes that “Chinese care about input, not about output” and anyone who has had to visit a public toilet or stand next to a garbage bin in China can probably attest to that!  I keep wishing that us Chinese would take a lesson from the Swiss in this regard.     The Swiss, you see, are almost as uptight about output as Chinese are about input.

This is a picture of a public waste-bin in Zurich, though it’s not just for any  waste. This waste bin is a rather typical example of a Swiss product.  It’s demarcated for a specific function, sturdy, and built to last through wind, sleet and snow. And it’s very clean, even for a wastebin.  You could even use it as a lean-post.   It reflects a respect, even for that which is to be thrown away.

Indeed, the Swiss have a regimented practice for dealing with waste in which glass, plastic bottles, paper, electronics, and cans are collected for recycling, while household waste is only accepted for disposal in specific bags sold by the municipalities.  The bags are not cheap – and include a fee to fund the disposal of the waste (generally via incineration).  This whole process reflects a respect for waste that is the first step in reducing and properly managing the mess that people create.

The Swiss have been at their waste system for many years. It was one of the first countries to introduce a tax on electronics to take care of disposal; today, over 70% of paper and plastic bottles are recycled, as well as over 90% of glass.  All waste is burned for electricity.  And yet even so, the Swiss produce more waste per capita (720kg per annum) than other European countries.  But they’re trying and in doing so have constantly issue reminders that caring about your community includes caring about its waste.

The Swiss may be the kings of waste in Europe, but they’re nothing when compared to Hong Kong.  HKers  produce 921 Kg waste per capita – and we do so flagrantly.  Our streets are covered with litter, and it’s not uncommon to see people bringing their household waste downstairs to drop on the street or in public wastebins, or just throwing it out of the window directly.  As a result we’re landfilling ourselves out of our homes, and in doing so creating more methane to add to our rising carbon footprint.

The first step to reclaiming your neighborhood is to reclaim your trash.

One comment on “Trash Matters: A new approach to waste?

  1. dllm1971
    March 9, 2012

    That waste bin can withstand an earthquake!

    You are right, trash is a major issue especially in HK.
    It is such a disposable culture here. People here are just so concerned about getting the latest thing, be it the latest car, electronic gadget, trendy clothing and accessories, etc.. Once they have the latest things, they don’t care much about the old, hence they just throw it away. It is about instant gratification and staying ahead with the latest and trendiest things . Anything else is secondary, including the environment.

    Few people would want to try to fix things here. “Why bother? Just get a new one.” This problem about trash is interrelated with conspicuous consumption, and the two cannot be addressed quickly. I wonder if the school system offers any environmental awareness courses for the younger generation? There is not much we can do with the older generations, they just want their latest iphone, LV bag, and BMW.

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This entry was posted on March 9, 2012 by in Europe, Hong Kong, See.
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