Hong Kong’s new waste bin design raises concerns among sanitation workers and scavengers

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2nd December 2023 – (Hong Kong) A recent urban development in Hong Kong has seen the introduction of a novel design for public waste bins, as part of a joint effort by the city’s Environmental Protection Department, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, and Leisure and Cultural Services Department. A total of 470 such units are currently being tested in various locations across the city.

Constructed primarily from recyclable plastic, the new waste bins retain the familiar orange colour, but incorporate a rounded top to discourage the piling of rubbish. However, this modification, coupled with a narrower intake slot compared to older models, has raised eyebrows among some community groups and city residents, who are concerned about potential pitfalls.

These new waste bins are designed not only to be more environmentally friendly but also to be more durable, equipped with ultraviolet protection to extend their lifespan. The oval-shaped intake slot, although more narrow, is intended to control the amount and size of the waste thrown, reducing the likelihood of overflow.

Another notable feature is the inclusion of a health and safety-focused design, with a manually tiltable ashtray that allows ashes to fall directly into the bin. This ashtray can also be entirely removed, making it easier for sanitation workers to dispose of the ashes. In addition, the use of metal materials in the bin’s construction is reduced, preventing the creation of sharp edges from rusting, and ensuring the safety of the workers. A door on the inner and outer bin also aids in changing the bin liner, reducing lifting movements for the workers.

Despite these design improvements, some citizens have expressed reservations about the smaller intake slot, arguing that it makes waste disposal inconvenient. Mr. Ng Wai-tung, a secretary of the Society for Community Organisation, has voiced concerns about the impact of these new bins on scavengers, individuals who collect recyclable materials from waste bins to support themselves.

Many of these scavengers, reluctant to receive social welfare, rely on finding paper and aluminium cans in the rubbish bins. The locked door on the new bins could potentially hinder their scavenging activities, adversely affecting their quality of life.