Proposed waste levy will not bother rich but will hurt families on low incomes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 April, 2012, 12:00am


Friends of the Earth has suggested a charge per bag of refuse of HK$1.30 under a proposed waste levy. The green group estimates this would come to about HK$40 a month for a typical family.

This sum will be of little consequence to well-off citizens, but what about underprivileged families? HK$40 might be all they have left in the month to treat themselves to a delicacy when they are having a meal. It is unfair to impose an even greater financial burden on citizens on low incomes for the sake of the environment.

Another obstacle regarding the proposed charge is that there is no mention of different kinds of waste attracting different rates. There is a failure to offer people the incentives to become more environmentally friendly.

Suppose Family A only discards biodegradable rubbish while Family B only throws away mostly plastic material. If they have the same number of bags, they will be charged exactly the same amount. But the biodegradable waste can gradually be broken down in the soil and this will not happen with plastic.

Clearly, there is failure to offer a fair incentive and people who dispose of biodegradable waste should not have to pay as high a levy as those who discard refuse containing plastic material.

The proposed scheme as it stands will therefore be inefficient.

If the government wants to change people's attitude and reduce the volumes of waste generated in Hong Kong, then proper education is crucial.

The focus should be on young people and schools must arrange various activities so students recognise the importance of environmental protection and become familiar with the practice of recycling. The government must look at all the relevant issues carefully before introducing any kind of a waste-charging scheme.

Paul Yuen, Sha Tin