The great green debate: Charge entire buildings a waste levy, or individuals?
Imposing a fee on whole buildings would be easier and more efficient, say firms. But green groups say charging individuals would be much fairer
A waste levy model that charges a whole building would be more efficient than one that charged individuals, property management firms believe.
Green groups, however, say charging individual households would be both fairer and greener.
Charging by building - whether by weight or volume - would be "simpler, efficient" and would cause "relatively fewer disputes", according to Yeung Man-kai, honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies.
But Miranda Yip Pui-wah, assistant environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth, said her group would not support charging by building.
"An equally shared fee to each building occupier might be easier to implement but it would fail in helping reduce waste," she said.
They were commenting on options laid out in the consultation paper on household waste charging launched by the Council for Sustainable Development yesterday.
Yeung said the building-charge option would have no financial impact on management companies because the whole charge would be passed on to owners.
Under that model, the management company would collect waste and pay the charge to the government, then collect the fee from the households - probably on an equal-share basis.
It would avoid the problem of fly-tipping by households wanting to avoid buying prepaid rubbish bags under an individual charging system.
"We might need to employ more people to patrol to prevent people from throwing out their waste not wrapped in prepaid bags," he said.
"And if they did, it would still be the property owners who paid for the clean-up."
He acknowledged, however, that an equal-share system might not be conducive to waste reduction and recycling. "Some owners might complain they are paying the same fee as others who might throw out much more trash than them," he said.
To address that, Yeung supported the idea of offering incentives to the building owners if they could make a significant reduction in waste.
The World Green Organisation said it favoured charging by household by volume as it was fairer, albeit more complicated, than other models.
According to the consultation paper, about 94 per cent of the city's 2.3 million households are served by management firms.
The remaining 6 per cent - many of them single or tenement buildings in old districts - might have to employ other means to pay for the waste they dumped, it said.
Lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee said that many buildings in Sham Shui Po did not have property management firms or even owners' corporations, which would cause great difficulties in collecting the fees.
He said many buildings did not have an incorporated office and it would be difficult for them to distribute designated rubbish bags to the tenants.
"I don't believe it is time to implement waste charging as it amounts to asking people to pay to dump their waste in landfills. There are other alternatives like recycling," he said.