Problems Arising from “Smart” Rubbish Bins and Old Refuse Collection Points



Rubbish collection and disposal have been long-standing problems for rural areas. Currently, there are over 800 rural refuse collection points (RCPs) in Hong Kong; the partially-closed off RCPs still in use are inadequate — in volume capacity and in design — to meet the needs of the continuously increasing population in rural areas. A number of districts without RCPs have to make do with placing large rubbish bins in public. To add to this, the process of removing and replacing these bins is inefficient and, when compounded with other problems, rubbish is often misplaced outside designated areas, resulting in poor environmental hygiene conditions that include foul odour, rodent infestations etc. Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) has persistently called on the government for measures to address and improve the situation.

The government had, earlier this year, set up 24 new-style “smart” rubbish bins (“new bins”) at twelve remote areas. DAB Legislative Councilors Ben Chan and Steven Ho conducted a site visit at one of the locations: Wu Kai Sha village. They welcome the government’s willingness to try new facilities in its efforts of solving the problem of rubbish collection in rural areas; however, during their site visit, they discovered that the new bin serious design flaws which served as disincentives for residents’ usage. Ben and Steven are worried that once the use of these new bins is adopted on a wider scale, not only would it not solve the problem of rubbish collection in rural areas, it would also be a waste of public funds. The design problems of the new bins include:

•The lids of these solar-powered new bins open and close automatically, and once a given quantity of rubbish is collected, sensors would trigger the compactor function to free up space for more rubbish. In actuality, the “technology” involved is not new while the new bins cost close to HK$30,000 each;

•The lids of these new bins are too small and are ill-suited for the needs and practice of rural residents. And as a result, in addition to the inadequate promotion by the government, and the public’s unawareness, which often led to members of the public to mistake the new bins as recycling bins, these new bins were found to be under-utilised while rubbish can still be found littered outside of the designated area at the site visit;

•These new bins are not designed to accommodate the needs of implementing the waste disposal charging scheme set to be launched. The absence of functions that could identify the various types of “designated garbage bags” will cause more problems in the future.

In order to resolve the problems of rubbish collection in rural areas, DAB Legislative Councilors Ben Chan and Steven Ho propose the following improvement measures:

•We can look to Macao and its compact waste house designs, and refurbish the RCPs in rural areas accordingly — by completely replacing the old partially-enclosed facilities with fully-enclosed facilities equipped with “smart” technology, it will help cut down on smell and other environmental hygiene problems; and through rubbish volume data gathering system that can alert waste contractors to timely clear the rubbish in order to alleviate the environmental hygiene problems;

•Understand the waste disposal habits and practices of rural area residents and their needs for specific functions before designing new bins; invite tertiary institutions to participate in its design; it is crucial to not work without consultation or knowledge — shooting in the dark — as doing so would lead to fundamental design flaws that do not meet the people’s needs, creating more waste in the process.

•Compared with RCPs in urban areas, RCPs locations in rural areas are more spread out with lower rubbish volume, and hence, there are inherent problems that come with operating large garbage trucks. Therefore, we should consider how smaller enclosed vehicles are used in other regions to raise the efficiency of rural refuse collection.


Media Inquiries: Legislative Councilor Ben Chan 9274 7035

Legislative Councilor Steven Ho 7770 0300