Hong Kong households will have to buy specifically designated plastic bags to dispose of their garbage under a charging scheme to be launched two years from now.
Those who fail to dispose of their garbage using these special bags could face a jail term of up to six months and a fine of as much as HK$25,000 upon conviction.
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the Waste Disposal (Charging for Municipal Solid Waste) (Amendment) Bill 2018 will be tabled to the Legislative Council on Nov. 14, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The Legco is likely to complete the first and second readings of the bill this month after it is gazetted on Friday, Wong told a press conference.
In March last year, when introducing the municipal solid waste (MSW) charging scheme, Wong said it was necessary to introduce financial incentives or disincentives to drive behavioral changes and encourage various sectors of the community to practice waste reduction and recycling.
After the passage of the bill, there will be a preparatory period of 12 to 18 months to provide the public, the government and other stakeholders enough time to get ready for the implementation of MSW charging scheme.
As such, Wong said, the scheme could only be implemented as soon as end-2020, or a year later than originally planned. He also said related measures will be reviewed three years after the launch.
Under the scheme, residents have to put their waste into designated garbage bags before disposal. There will be nine types of such bags, with sizes ranging from 3 liters to 100 liters in volume.
The bags can be bought in about 4,000 sales points around the city, including supermarkets, convenience stores, petrol-filling stations and post offices.
As each liter of garbage will be charged 11 HK cents, the prices of the bags will be between 30 HK cents and HK$11 each. For garbage that is too big for the available bags, residents have to attach an “oversized” waste label, the price of which will be set at a uniform rate of HK$11 each.
Those who fail to put their waste in designated garbage bags or affix with “oversized” waste labels can end up being fined up to HK$1,500.
In serious offenses, a person may be prosecuted and, if convicted, face an imprisonment term of up to six months and a fine of HK25,000 for the first offense. The maximum penalty will be a jail term of six months and a fine of HK$50,000 for subsequent offenses.
According to documents the government submitted to Legco on Wednesday, a family of three is expected to use a 10-liter or 15-liter bag per day, which means the 30-day monthly cost for garbage disposal will be between HK$33 and HK$51.
Those receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and Old Age Allowance will be given a subsidy of HK$10 a month for the scheme.
Wong said the daily MSW disposal rate in Hong Kong reached 1.41 kilograms per person in 2016, which is higher than the average in other major cities.
As such, it is imperative to promote resources saving as well as waste reduction and recycling in order to reduce our carbon emissions and encourage low-carbon living, he said.
The environment chief cited the cases of Seoul and Taipei City, where waste disposal dropped by some 30 percent after the introduction of a quantity-based waste charging scheme.
In a joint statement, several environmental groups, including Greeners Action, Green Power, The Green Earth, The Conservancy Association, Green Sense, Friends of the Earth (HK) and Greenpeace Hong Kong welcomed the government’s move to introduce the bill and called on Legco to pass it as soon as possible.
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