Public warms up to cash-for-trash payment proposal

Consultation shows that most people support paying HK$30 per family for rubbish disposal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 4:38am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

Signs of consensus have emerged over a pay-as-you-throw fee system for rubbish, with most respondents to a four-month consultation favouring a monthly levy of less than HK$30 for a typical three-member family.

But Bernard Chan, chairman of the Council for Sustainable Development, which carried out the consultation, rejected calls for low-income groups to be exempted from the charge.

Waste disposal fees have been suggested as a way to improve the city's dismal recycling rate and ease pressure on rapidly filling landfill sites. But green groups warn that a low fee may not be a sufficient incentive to recycle.

Chan, also an Executive Council member, said the government was liaising with flat owners' corporations and management companies to work out details of a pilot scheme.

"Different estates or buildings will be chosen for the pilot scheme so we can spot the possible difficulties," Chan said. On the most controversial aspect of the scheme, Chan said he wanted the fee to be at a "nominal level", for fear a high levy could promote illegal dumping.

The council is expected to report its findings to the government in the third quarter.

But Angus Ho Hon-wai, executive director of environmental group Greeners Action, expressed doubt over the charge.

"A monthly fee below HK$30 is too low. A lunch box costs over HK$30 now," he said. "If the fee is set too low, there is no incentive for people to dump less."

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing yesterday said there was a need to strike a balance over the fee.

"The charging level should be determined by its effectiveness in inducing behavioural changes to reduce and recycle waste," Wong said. "If it is set too high, people may not be able to afford it. But if it is set too low, there is no incentive for people to reduce waste."

He said the government would help those on low incomes pay the fee through existing welfare schemes.

Under options put forward in the consultation, which ended last month, the rubbish charge would be between HK$30 and HK$74 a month for a typical household.

In a poll by the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood in December, almost two-thirds of respondents opposed a rubbish charge. But a study commissioned by Friends of the Earth the same month showed 60 per cent of respondents in favour of such a policy.