Should Hong Kong impose a rubbish tax?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2011, 12:00am

Matthew Murchie, 17, St Joseph's College

Hong Kong generates millions of tonnes of rubbish each year, and produces more waste per person than any other economy. Moreover, we are rapidly running out of space to dump all the rubbish. It is forecast that by 2015, all our landfills will be full.

This troubling situation has prompted some people to suggest a rubbish tax as a deterrent against unnecessary waste. But, such a tax would not only be impractical, it would be ineffective too. With more than 7 million people living in the city, it would be almost impossible to monitor how much rubbish each person produces, and tax them. Even if it were possible, the resources and staff needed would be unacceptable.

Taxing residents according to the amount of rubbish they produce would also be unfair to certain households. For example, large families produce more rubbish, and forcing them to pay more tax would only increase their financial burden.

The key to solving the waste disposal crisis is to tackle the root of the problem. Instead of taxing people on their rubbish, we should focus on cutting unnecessary waste. For instance, the levy on plastic bags has proven to be hugely successful. Likewise, a similar charge could be imposed on items such as non-recyclable lunchboxes and disposable water bottles.

If we really want to reduce waste, a tax is definitely not the way forward. It would be far more damaging than it's worth.

Elise Choi, 16, Sai Kung Sung Tsun Catholic School

The amount of rubbish in Hong Kong is growing rapidly due to the expanding population and people's attitude.

The city's three landfills are expected to be full in a few years. Where will our garbage go then? It is vital for the government to implement effective and long-term policies to deal with the problem.

Last year, the government wanted to extend the Tseung Kwan O landfill but the proposal was rejected. More recently, it suggested building an incinerator in Shek Kwu Chau, but that led to heated debate. Why not try to reduce waste in the first place?

The most feasible way to do this would be through a tax. A tax on rubbish would encourage people to cut the amount they produce every day by recycling, donating usable goods and minimising waste.

Household waste is the main source of rubbish in Hong Kong. The city is rich and many people have the money to buy things they don't really need. Some simply throw away things without concern for the environment.

A tax would change people's attitude towards waste and promote awareness of environmental problems. We would understand that everyone has the responsibility to protect the environment and ensure that Hong Kong would be a nice place to live. People would become used to producing less rubbish.

The government should impose a tax to reduce the amount of rubbish and to make the city a better place.