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Does lying in one’s own garbage seem shocking to you? At first glance, these images from the ongoing series of photographic project, “7 Days of Garbage” by Gregg Segal, seem really gross. But after staring at them for a few seconds, it dawns on me how close to reality these scenarios are. While the photos show Californians lying amid a week’s worth of their own garbage, I can easily imagine worse scenarios if the photos were taken in Hong Kong!

When it comes to environmental protection, Hong Kong would probably score very low on the international scale. While there is a tiny scale of recycling effort, most people do not make recycling a habit. There is close to zero recycling for glass bottles, except for a small non-profit social enterprise that collects bottles and other recyclable trash from a few selected locations and charge a fee for its service. The fee generally puts the “common people” off from wanting to recycle. Basically, the government doesn’t give a damn about recycling, has no political will to push for the development of a comprehensive recycling industry, and is clueless about what to do next about the ever-rising pile of garbage in our backyards.

There are several large dumping grounds for trash in our small city but those are nearing full capacity. We have hundreds of high-risers built atop land that was “reclaimed”, meaning, land that was originally ocean but built from scratch using garbage. The government is looking to build incinerators but what terrible pollution would that bring to our already polluted air?

Adding to these problems is the lack of awareness among the citizens. It is appalling how people dump whatever they don’t want into Nature. They give absolutely no qualm about polluting Nature with stuff that will not disintegrate for millions of years, let alone care about how ugly it looks. It’s just a “surface nuisance,” as the brilliant comedian George Carlin has said in his famous skid about the environment. “[The earth] wanted plastic for itself!”… The age-old question of “Why are we here?” can be answered simply by: “Plastic!”

A poetic image? What is a sofa chair doing on the beach?

A poetic image? What is a sofa chair doing on the beach?

Refrigerator and Liquid Gas Petroleum can on the beach!Refrigerator and Liquid Gas Petroleum can on the beach!

Beautiful decorations hikers left behind

Beautiful decorations hikers left behind

Nowhere have I seen furniture and big pieces of electrical appliances thrown in Nature as in Hong Kong. The reason why people do that is because one has to pay a fee (roughly US$60) to throw away a piece of furniture in the landfill. To save money, people (usually movers who help people get rid of old furniture) would just drive to a remote area in the New Territories and dump the furniture in Nature. These movers have absolutely no regard for Nature.

In some areas of Hong Kong, the water currents would bring in trash from Mainland China. How do I know? Well, just look at the packages… the words are written in simplified Chinese, which is not used on Hong Kong. I have a lot more photos of such trash but I think I’m grossing myself out at this point.

A country that contrasts greatly from Hong Kong is Sweden, where I lived for five years and observed how the citizens were conscientious about recycling everything possible and doing compost in the countryside. There is a bit of economic incentive for people to recycle plastic bottles and aluminium cans—at supermarkets there are machines that take these and give you a coupon that can be redeemed for cash. But most people would recycle whenever they can—with or without cash rewards—and would walk the extra mile to dump their pre-sorted trash into the proper containers.

Overall, the Swedish people keep their Nature absolutely pristine. You won’t find a single piece of trash when you go hiking or swimming. Other European countries are also equally good at environmental protection, such as Switzerland. You can clearly see how their citizens are properly educated to respect Nature and treat it as an important asset and treasure in their lives. Not only that, there is a general sense of reverence for what is considered sacred. In Hong Kong, I have observed the disrespect people have for Nature—mostly out of ignorance; and also the way they treat Nature as a big kitchen cabinet from which they get resources (like fish and seafood). Perhaps they need to have a look at pictures like the one below to be reminded what keeping Nature clean would mean. But I’m afraid that we would need another campaign like the “Lap Sap Chung Campaign” launched by the former colonial governor, Sir Murray MacLehose in the 70’s (which I witnessed growing up in the city), to raise awareness among citizens and encourage them to put trash where they belong.

The pristine St. Moritz Lake

The pristine St. Moritz Lake


Related article:

Mesmerizing Photos of People Lying in a Week’s Worth of Their Trash