20 April 2019
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the rates for the scheme are similar to those in Taipei and Seoul. Photo: HKEJ
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the rates for the scheme are similar to those in Taipei and Seoul. Photo: HKEJ

Solid waste charging scheme seen hard to enforce

The proposed Municipal Solid Waste Charging Scheme is intended to encourage people to reduce the amount of garbage they produce.

Well and good. But how do you enforce it? How do you penalize those who fail to comply with the new requirements?

The proposed charging scheme would cost around HK$51 a month for an average family of three that produces 15 liters of trash everyday, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Households would have to dispose of the trash using special plastic bags to be designated by the Environment Bureau.

If the motion is passed, the legislation would come into effect as soon as 2019.

The Environment Bureau wants to have the authority under the law to enter private housing estates and prosecute those who violate the scheme, although it admits that it would be difficult to catch violators in the act.

It hopes to submit a draft of the proposed law to the Legislative Council before the summer.

At the moment, each Hongkonger is dumping an average of 1.39 liters of waste per day. The scheme hopes to cut down the volume by 30 percent.

The charge will be based on the plastic bag used to dispose of the garbage.

The charge for garbage in a 15-liter bag will be HK$1.7 each, or about HK$51 a month, while that for a 10-liter bag is HK$1.1, or HK$33 a month.

The Council for Sustainable Development had suggested 15 HK cents per liter in 2015.

Under the scheme, larger items like furniture and home appliances will be charged HK$11 each.

For industrial and commercial wastes, the fees will be HK$365 to HK$395 per ton.

The government wants a three-year transition period, with the charge increasing by 60 percent in the third year.

When asked whether the scheme would encourage people to reduce the amount of their trash, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the original intent of the scheme was to use economic incentives to make citizens change their habits on waste disposal.

He said the pricing is reasonable as it is similar to the rates in Taipei and Seoul.

Under the plan, garbage collectors under the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will not accept any plastic bag that is not designated for use under the scheme and violators will be fined HK$1,500 for every infraction.

Legislator Hui Chi-fung from the Democratic Party welcomes the scheme, although he admits that its implementation may be difficult.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong said there is some concern that the scheme might force some households to throw their garbage in the streets or down the drains.

Chan stressed the need to strike a balance between implementing the scheme and respecting the privacy of households, or it could become “a huge mess”.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal

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