Sunday, November 29, 2015   

Pressure piling up for waste charge

Winnie Chong

Friday, December 07, 2012

Get ready to pay a monthly fee of HK$40 for disposing of your domestic rubbish as support grows for charging on a "polluter-pays" basis.

Based on the first public consultation on the issue, which ended in April, 63 percent of 2,300 submissions supported municipal charging for solid waste, according to a government spokesman.

Many prefer the Taiwanese method in which the more you dump, the more you pay, an Environment Bureau spokesman said yesterday.

A second round of consultations will be launched on fees next year.

In Taipei and Seoul, where municipal solid waste charging has been successfully implemented through a garbage- bag system, the retail price for a bag is about 10 HK cents a liter.

At this price, an average household of three will pay HK$40 a month based on the current disposal level of 0.87 kilos per person a day. But that amount is expected to eventually drop to HK$30.

Experience in Taiwan shows household waste will drop by 30 percent due to reduced generation and better recycling of waste with a quantity- based charging system.

The bureau spokesman stressed the charging system is not designed to make money but to reduce waste.

Some people surveyed accepted the charging system and were optimistic about it, but others feared people would dump waste illegally.

In Taipei, 0.5 percent of its waste was disposed of illegally in the first year of charging in 2003.

The way forward will be discussed by the Legislative Council's panel on environmen
tal affairs on December 18.

While Taipei achieved a compliance rate of more than 99.5 percent in its first year, it closed refuse collection points and withdrew public litter bins to combat fly-tipping.

In Hong Kong, fly-tipping could see about 27 tonnes of waste being dumped illegally each day, especially in old residential buildings and village houses, which could increase the risk of spreading infectious diseases.

Taipei adopts a hybrid approach: a gate fee system operates in parallel with a pre-paid garbage bag charging system.

Individuals can either put waste in designated bags or leave it to property management agents or garbage collectors who use larger bags for the whole building. About 90 percent of Hong Kong flats have management agents.

Under a gate fee system, commercial and industrial bodies dispose of their waste by engaging private collectors. Fees for disposal at landfills and refuse stations would be levied at the reception facilities.

The spokesman said that during the second consultation, the bureau will seek a balance in charging and consider the cost, affordability and the "polluter- pays" principle.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the government is inclined to charge households a waste fee by volume and, if adopted, legislation will be completed in 2016 at the earliest.

Friends of the Earth director for general affairs Edwin Lau Che-feng suggested concessions for users who produce less garbage.

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