Wading through Hong Kong's rubbish of a waste policy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 4:09am
 

When a government has to consider bribing a district to continue accepting other districts' waste you know the rot has well and truly set in to the city's rubbish disposal system. This is one of the suggested "sweetening" measures to persuade district councils and lawmakers to go along with expansion of landfill rubbish dumps and help save the city from being overwhelmed with its own waste before a planned incinerator comes on line in 2023.

The government is struggling to secure enough votes for the expansions in the Legislative Council's public works committee. As a result, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has taken over the chairmanship of a working group set up with Tuen Mun district council to look at a set of demands and proposals from the district in return for a 200-hectare landfill extension. She denies this is about making deals, but has added: "Some districts have borne more than others so, if they have demands about leisure, cultural and transport [improvements], we will consider them seriously."

We think districts that have to put up with rubbish generated by neighbouring areas that hold their noses and invoke the "nimby" (not in my backyard) principle about garbage disposal have every right to make deals and drive hard bargains. Unfortunately, however, the capacity of our three landfills will have to be extended beyond 2019 because of past inaction. Unveiling a blueprint for solving the city's refuse problem last month, Wong rightly described the situation as grave in laying out a mix of incineration, waste disposal charges and improved recycling to ease the strain on landfills. There is now little room for more talk. Support from the public works committee will improve the government's chances of winning approval for funds from Legco's Finance Committee for landfill extensions. The need for them is regrettable, but a vote scheduled for tomorrow is a chance for lawmakers to point the way forward to a better long-term solution.

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