Government to burn billions in taxes on incinerator instead of making waste pay

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2011, 12:00am


I refer to the letter by Samson Lai of the Environmental Protection Department ('Massive reduction of plastic shopping bags ending up in our landfills', September 12).

Mr Lai said the department welcomed people's views on how to protect the environment and strongly believed 'that with the concerted efforts of our community, we are able to manage our broader waste problem ... in an effective and sustainable way, thereby making Hong Kong a better and greener place'.

I commend him for his comments. However, I would like to know why over the last 20 years his department has failed to implement any significant waste-charging measures beyond the (supermarket-led) charge for plastic bags mentioned in his letter.

The experience of other major cities around the world indicates that waste-charging measures reduce waste levels by as much as 90 per cent.

Environmentalists such as Christine Loh Kung-wai have been pushing for waste charges since the early 1990s, and still the department dithers over whether to do this and, if so, how, and claims further public consultation is needed.

In the meantime, it plans to spend an estimated HK$13 billion on a new super-incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau to come on stream by 2018.

If waste charging is brought in now throughout the SAR, an incinerator of this scale will not be needed.

Waste charging is easily implemented. To dispose of waste, government-approved bin bags must be used. Those bags are priced appropriately so that people limit their disposal of waste.

Perhaps the department prefers the certainty of having waste to burn for its pet project - and the incinerator, like all pets, must be fed regularly and well to remain operational - and so also prefers to burn billions of taxpayers' dollars building this huge facility.

Before this administration, in a department-led initiative, sinks HK$13 billion into building a new incinerator (which equates to a cost of more than HK$2,000 per Hong Kong permanent resident, effectively reducing the HK$6,000 handout), why does it not now implement waste charging? This is a measure which will pay for itself.

Such policies have, after all, been on its agenda as far back as when the last incinerator (in Sheung Wan) was closed in the 1990s out of concern for degrading air quality.

Tom Hope, Lantau