Plans have also been discussed to extend current landfills and build an incinerator, both proposals which are unpopular with residents and some environmentalists.
While the government stalls on the bigger picture when it comes to managing waste, smaller-scale groups are trying to get the message across at a grassroots level.
Hong Kong Recycles is a non-profit organization set up last year which issues four reusable bags to its subscribers so that they can separate their paper, plastic, metal and glass for recycling. The bags are then picked up from their doorsteps once a week.
Although some apartment blocks in Hong Kong already have recycling bins, they are often too small for the number of residents living there.
“A lot of Hong Kong people do care about the environment and want to recycle, but they don’t want to walk down to a community center or to wheelie bins with their rubbish. We thought of a way to make it easier for them,” operations manager Joshua Tan said.
Subscribers pay HK$25 a week for the service and the organization currently has 250 clients, including corporations, plus a waiting list, Tan said.
Retail company director Marc Dambrines, 39, who has lived in Hong Kong for 17 years, said he signed up because Hong Kong Recycles was able to explain clearly to him where his trash would go and how it would be used.
“It’s easy to recycle, but often you don’t know what happens at the end of the process,” he said.
Hong Kong already recycles about half of its waste, but Wong said compulsory recycling should be introduced as part of any government waste reduction plan.
“The government and people need to join hands now to cope with the crisis,” he said.
However, for many in Hong Kong, the frenetic pace of daily life means thinking about waste is not high on their list.
“Most people don’t worry about it. I think about how much my household produces, but sometimes convenience is a priority,” said 40-year-old housewife Ophelia, who believes waste charging would make a difference.
“It would give me a push to do better,” she said. “Chinese people are very money-minded. If we’re charged for something we will be more careful.”