Monday, 15 April 2013

Hong Kong says YES to waste charging scheme

Establishing a proper waste management system has always been a challenging task for the Hong Kong government to implement. Back in 1995, the government has proposed to introduce a waste charging scheme to provide a financial incentive for the public to reduce waste generation. However, this proposal has been staying in the research and discussion stage until Jan 2012, when the Environment Bureau has launched the public consultation on the introduction of waste charging to reduce the generation of municipal solid waste.

Four suggested approaches have been included In the consultation document, including quantity-based system, proxy system, fixed charge system, and partial charging system. The result of the consultation revealed that over 60% of written comments received support waste charging scheme and over 50% is in favour of the quantity-based system. In Dec 2012, the government has outlined the initial framework of the waste charging scheme. The preliminary proposal goes in line with what the majority in favour of: quantity-based system to be established in 2016.

Yet, details including charging standards and methods have not yet been confirmed. Using the case of Taipei as a reference, it is predicted approximately HK$40 will be charged monthly for a family of three. However, with the effort of source reduction and recycling, the cost can be reduced to $30/month.

MSW collection services in Hong Kong are delivered with an emphasis on efficiency and high hygiene standards. Our waste collection system and network have not been operated in a way that can facilitate the collection of a quantity-based waste charge; neither does it facilitate waste tracing. In the event that the implementation of charging is unsatisfactory, illegal dumping might arise and could have an impact on environmental hygiene.

When Taipei first launched the waste charging scheme, its adherence rate was over 99.5% and illegal dumping still existed. Once establishing the waste charging scheme, fewer garbage bills will be placed on the public areas and increasing illegal dumping is expected. The second phase of consultation will be launched in the near future to address the consequences of waste charging scheme and to identify possible solutions to avoid illegal dumping.

In fact, there has been voices pointing out there are excessive quantity of garbage bins in Hong Kong. In one way, it provides a convenient way for our citizens but also spoiling them. In some urban districts, the ratio of garbage bin to recycling bin is 1:20. To tackle the root factor, it is suggested that more recycling bins and fewer garbage bins should be placed along the public areas to help the Hong Kong citizens to develop a good recycling habit.

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