Let's talk trash
A public consultation on waste disposal in the city was launched on Tuesday. Two of the biggest questions up for debate are whether Hongkongers are willing to pay to have their rubbish dumped and what sort of charging system they will agree to.
Environmentalists say there is not enough information in the consultation for the public to make an informed decision, such as the amount of the levy. But Secretary for Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah says: 'We should reach a consensus on whether to impose a levy on waste disposal before discussing [what the levy would be].'
What's more, Edwin Lau Che-feng of Friends of the Earth says the levy is not enough. 'It is meaningless to present an option that does not encourage waste reduction,' he said.
When will a decision be reached? It's all a bit murky. A fee on rubbish should have been introduced five years ago, in accordance with a waste management plan drawn up by the city's previous environment chief. The consultation is due to last three months.
Hongkongers are extremely wasteful. Each resident throws away an estimated 870 grams of domestic waste a day, according to the Environment Bureau. Taipei and Seoul residents dispose of 410 grams and 350 grams respectively.
A 2009 survey run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development came up with similarly worrying data: Hong Kong produces more than twice as much rubbish per person each year (921kg) as the Japanese (410kg) and South Koreans (380kg).
How have the city's waste habits changed recently? Last year 52 per cent of the waste generated was recycled, up from 43 per cent in 2005. However, Lau said that total municipal waste also rose during the same period, from 2.42kg a day per person to 2.69kg.
Adapted from an article by Olga Wong published in SCMP on January 11