On Monday the Environment Bureau finally unveiled its long overdue proposal on the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) charging scheme, and as expected, it has drawn mixed response from members of the public, many of whom think the rate proposed by the government is simply too high.
That is exactly the idea of any waste disposal charging scheme: only by making the public feel the pinch can citizens be truly motivated to stop being wasteful and achieve waste reduction at source. The proposal is reasonable and in the right direction.
Under the government’s plan, the proposed levy on waste disposal will be both “bag-based” and “volume-based”. The former applies to residential buildings and the latter to industrial and commercial premises.
Once implemented, the scheme will require citizens to dump their household waste in pre-paid designated garbage bags that come in different sizes and prices ranging from 30 HK cents to HK$11 each. Anyone who fails to comply may face a fine of HK$1,500.
According to government estimates, it would cost a family of three an average of HK$18 to HK$33 per month to dispose of their household waste.
Meanwhile, shops, restaurants and business offices would be charged HK$365 to HK$395 per ton of garbage they dispose of.
The Environment Bureau said it would take about a year for the related bill to pass in Legco, plus 12 to 18 months of preparation. The scheme is expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2019.
However, even though we welcome the proposal, we believe there is still plenty of room for improvement and fine-tuning.
In particular, the proposal hasn’t touched on the issue of waste sorting, let alone made it mandatory, which we believe constitutes a major shortcoming in the scheme.
The government admitted that it would be very difficult for law enforcement agencies to prevent inconsiderate citizens from irresponsibly dumping their household trash in the back stairs or even on the street at will without using pre-paid bags. But more effort will be spent on public education.
In general, the scheme is a good and feasible idea that can benefit society as a whole in the long run.
However, it is important for the government to come up with proposals on waste sorting and kitchen waste treatment as soon as possible to enhance the scheme.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Mar. 21
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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