16 October 2018
Residents say mixing kitchen waste with the rest of the garbage results in smelly rubbish bags; a waste disposal machine at Amoy Gardens. Photo: HKEJ
Residents say mixing kitchen waste with the rest of the garbage results in smelly rubbish bags; a waste disposal machine at Amoy Gardens. Photo: HKEJ

Households may be charged HK$3 per bag of garbage

Hong Kong households may be charged HK$3 for every bag of garbage, or around HK$90 a month, under the proposed Municipal Solid Waste Charging Scheme.

On the other hand, shops, restaurants, offices and factories may be charged HK$400 to HK$499 per ton of waste under the plan, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing the Environment Bureau.

The bureau is expected to announce on Monday the details of the proposed charging scheme, which aims to encourage people to reduce their waste under the “polluter pays” principle.

It has been five years since the bureau put forward the proposal, but little progress has been made due to the lack of a suitable composite waste recycling program to support the scheme.

Amoy Gardens in Ngau Tau Kok is one of the housing estates selected to pilot the program. Results of the testing have been encouraging, but the lack of a waste recycling component remains the biggest obstacle.

Yip Hing-kwok, a member of the Kwun Tong District Council and chairperson of the homeowners’ committee at Amoy Gardens, said mixing kitchen waste with the rest of the household garbage results in smelly rubbish bags.

This could result in households throwing out a garbage bag before it is full, thus disrupting the charging scheme’s original purpose of reducing wastage.

Yip said he had told the government about the problem as early as in 2014 when the pilot scheme was launched, but his suggestion for a waste disposal machine to be installed was rejected by the Environment and Conservation Fund.

The Environment Bureau insisted that the waste disposal machine’s products must be fermented and used within the estate, and not transported to another place.

Yip said this was not practical because the fermenting area would be very smelly.

In the absence of government funding, Yip’s committee turned to the Peak Galleria, which was undergoing maintenance at the time, to borrow their waste disposal machine that can process up to 100 kilograms of waste within 10 hours.

The composite waste was sent to the New Territories to be used as fertilizers.

Yip said a waste disposal machine costs at least HK$300,000, which was too expensive for any community to purchase.

The Environment Bureau said the key to funding depends greatly on whether a solution can be found to tackle the composite waste problem.

Even if the charging scheme could come into effect in two and a half years’ time, the entire program could not take off without a blueprint for waste recycling and funding, the bureau said.

Meanwhile, some residents in housing estates participating in the pilot scheme find the charge of HK$90 a month too expensive.

A 70-year-old retiree surnamed Tam said such a charge for his family of four was “scary”.

Tam said he could put his garbage in “normal plastic bags” to avoid paying the charges. He hopes the price of the garbage bags could go down to HK$1 each.

Community Leap, an environmental protection group, agreed it would be hard to monitor the residents’ use of garbage bags, while other green groups said those who do not use the plastic bags provided should be penalized.

Other proposals include using barcodes for trash bags and installing CCTVs in the backstairs, but these suggestions have raised privacy issues.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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