New nightsoil collection removal methods in Hongkong, newspaper article 1940

Thanks to IDJ for sending in this article thereby enlarging our knowledge about the collection of nightsoil in Hong Kong and hopefully making us appreciate the modern collection and treatment of sewage.

Thanks also to SCT for proofreading the retyped article.

New Nightsoil Removal Methods In Hongkong HK Daily Press Detail 16 Sept 1940 From IDJ

New nightsoil removal methods in Hongkong

Combating the Cholera Menace in the Colony

Drastic changes in the present method of removing nightsoil are foreshadowed in a new scheme now being prepared for the more sanitary and efficient method of removing nightsoil in Hongkong, it is reliably understood. The new scheme is designed to play a vital part in the control of infectious diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

Under present arrangements nightsoil is removed by coolies. Householders are allowed to use any sort of buckets. The coolies empty the buckets into containers, and then sluice round the buckets with a dash of water which is often poured into the drain, and the empty buckets are returned to the household.
The first phase of the new scheme calls for standard, covered containers in each household, mechanical transference of the contents and mechanical washing in a “tank truck.”


This “tank trunk” is an important part of the scheme. It will follow the collecting trucks, and as each container is emptied, it is passed on to the “tank truck,” inside which there will be means for cleaning the containers out with a strong jet of water before they are returned, bright and shining, as it were, to the householders.
The collecting truck will, in turn, transfer its own contents on the water-front to the boats.


This, however, is only the preliminary part of the scheme and although it marks a great improvement on present methods, it is not the ideal finally aimed at.
This ideal calls for the provision of two covered containers to each householder. A different system will then be used.
Each morning, trucks will travel around, picking up one of the covered containers and leaving the fresh one in its place. The containers with night-soil in them will be fitted into the collecting trucks in such a manner that they cannot roll around and their covers will be strongly clamped down.


They will be taken away, their contents emptied into the boats, and the containers will then will then be washed properly in a shed fitted out for the purpose, to be returned the following morning when the other of the two containers supplied to each householder is picked up.
Under this scheme, there will be no smell, no early-morning noise of churning brushes, no spilling and no flies.
The scheme goes even further than this however. At the present moment, once the night-soil is loaded into the boats, it is up to the contractor to get rid of it as best he may. He  sells as much as he can to farmers and so on in the New Territories, charging them as much as he can get; the unsold portion is dumped into the sea.
This is not satisfactory as, apart from other considerations, farmers in the New Territories who need the night-soil for manure are unable in many cases to pay the prices demanded by the contractors, with the result that available land in the Territories is not eing used to its full extent, with a consequent rise in unemployment.
It is suggested by the sponsors of the scheme that Government might do well to take this question of disposing of the night-soil off the contractors’ hands by building in the New Territories large, concrete tanks for its reception.

Night soil collection Source: Apple Daily 2013

I don’t know the location of the image below, but these two images on night soil collection are around 140 years between them.  Can anyone supply an image around the 1930s or 40s, and in Hong Kong. A picture of one of the boats used to take the sewage up to the New Territories, as mentioned in the article would, the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Night Soil Collectiom Woman Collecting 1871 Source Unknown

Woman collecting night soil in 1871. Location unknown Source: Wikiwand


  1. Hong Kong Daily Press 16th September 1940

This article was first posted on 25th August 2020.

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