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Waste Charging Is the Way Forward

When the Government, the business community and the general public of Hong Kong are in agreement on an issue, it is a cause for celebration. Especially when it is regarding a proposal that aims to improve the environment for everyone.

A bill to introduce charging for the disposal of municipal solid waste is currently being scrutinized by lawmakers, and we sincerely hope that it will pass without hurdles.

We welcome this bill for a number of reasons. Firstly, HKGCC supports the polluter-pays principle, which is surely the fairest way of tackling the problem as well as acting as an incentive to reduce pollution. We have also seen how such schemes in other cities have proved to be an extremely effective way to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste generated.

As citizens of a global city, we should perhaps be a little bit red-faced over the amount of rubbish we produce. According to the Environmental Protection Department, we create waste at a rate of 1.45 kilogrammes per person, per day. This does not compare well with Seoul (1.08 kilos) and Taipei (0.88 kilos) – both of which have waste-charging programmes already.

Surveys on the topic have found that Hong Kong people generally support the idea of waste charging, which is heartening. This does raise the question, however, why are our waste levels still so high?

Even with the best of intentions, it is sometimes hard to stay on the green path. It is easier to grab a plastic-packed take-out at lunchtime than to prepare your own food in advance. And why take the time to wash and separate recyclable items when you can just throw everything in the same rubbish bin?

A cost, even a small one, may be enough to change this mindset. You can read more about the details in the upcoming March issue of The Bulletin. In short, the public will need to use designated bags for their waste, which come in a range of different sizes costing from 30 cents to $11.

The proposed charges are not high, but they are not negligible either. They should give people pause for thought before they throw things away or buy products with excess packaging.

One benefit of being a laggard is that we can see how waste-charging programmes have been successfully implemented elsewhere. There will inevitably be some niggles as the scheme is introduced in Hong Kong, and we don’t expect a major change in behaviour to happen overnight. But overall, we cannot see any significant drawbacks to this proposal.

We hope the scheme will be rolled out soon, and look forward to living in a cleaner, greener, healthier Hong Kong.

Posted on 2019/02/26