The world is choking on waste. The World Bank estimates that humans generate over 2 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually. At least a third of that is not managed in an environmentally safe manner. And the region that produces most of the world’s waste? We live in it: East Asia and the Pacific.
Here in Hong Kong, the homegrown waste crisis is visible for all to see, and dramatically so. Take a walk on the High Junk Peak Country Trail, look to the west–and take in the jarring sight of the scar cut between the mountains. That’s the South East New Territories Landfill, a sprawling brown expanse larger than an airport. It’s just one of three similar sites in Hong Kong. And at the rate we’re going they’re going to be completely filled up by 2030.
The circular economy is a concept that’s gaining traction in the world, and Hong Kong, as we struggle to wrestle back the waste monster. What, exactly, is it? Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a British climate activist NGO, explains the circular economy thusly: “Instead of taking resources from the earth, using them once, and disposing of them in landfill, we keep them in use for as long as possible. We make sure that we gain the maximum benefit from them while reducing negative environmental impacts.”