Public support waste disposal charges

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am


The government should do more to promote the idea of charging for waste disposal, an environmental group says, as a survey showed that more than half of Hongkongers questioned support the idea.

In a survey commissioned by Friends of the Earth, 51.7 per cent of the 1,007 adults questioned were in favour of the 'polluter pays' principle, where families and businesses pay for waste disposal according to the amount of rubbish they generate. One-third said they were against it.

More than 60 per cent told interviewers from the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme that their families would do more to separate recyclable materials from waste if it could save them money.

The survey was organised in response to a government consultation on waste charging, which ends on April 10. Green groups have criticised the government for failing to set out how much the charge will be or when it will be implemented.

Michelle Au Wing-tsz, Friends of the Earth's deputy environmental affairs manager, said she was surprised at the number of people who were in favour of waste charging despite knowing 'nearly nothing' about it.

'We're quite disappointed at the government,' she said. 'There's been a lack of promotion during the consultation period. The public don't even know how they would implement waste charging, how much they will be charged and when it will come into force. The result shows the public want to take the initiative in reducing waste.'

While 56.9 per cent of the population is willing to pay no more than 50 cents to dispose of a bag of rubbish, some were willing to pay more. The average sum people were willing to pay was 60 cents.

Au said the figures showed people were relating the figure to the price of a plastic bag in a store. But the charge would be too low to encourage waste reduction, she said.

Friends of the Earth proposes that each bag should cost HK$1.30 to cover waste treatment costs. A typical family would pay HK$40 each month, but Au said that proactive separation of waste could lower the charges to HK$10 a month.

Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah admitted yesterday that Hong Kong was facing an imminent waste problem, for which charges could be one solution.

A government spokeswoman said it would discuss details of waste charging with the public after 'a consensus had been reached'.

Additional reporting by Cheung Chi-fai