Building a waste incinerator and expanding the landfills are the only ways to prevent the city becoming a rubbish city, and the proposed measures must be approved soon, says the chairman of the Council for Sustainable Development.
“There is no possibility that incineration will not be part of our waste management [programme],” said Bernard Chan, who is also a member of the Executive Council.
“Even if it is approved today, it will take time to build and even when it is built, will only treat one-third of the city’s waste. Our landfills are almost at capacity,” he told local radio on Thursday.
Chan said he understood the pains of residents who live near the city’s three landfills but suggested there were “no other methods of processing” available now.
“All three measures [landfill, incineration and recycling] will be needed or the city will very quickly become a city of rubbish.
His statement comes five days before the government again attempts to seek support from lawmakers to build the incinerator and extend the city's three landfills.
Lawmakers rejected the landfill expansion plans last year, while the plan for the incinerator in Shek Kwu Chau faces a court challenge and widespread opposition by nearby residents.
About 48 per cent of the city’s of daily waste is recycled, while 52 percent goes into one of the city’s three landfills. Singapore and Taiwan recycle about the same percentage of their waste but the rest is incinerated and less than 3 per cent of their waste goes to a landfill.
The council is preparing a report on municipal waste charging, which will most likely be published before the third-quarter after a three-month trial. Any proposed rubbish levy will not be implemented until 2016, Chan said.
The council is proposing for industrial and commercial tenants – who are already being charged a number of waste management fees – to start paying for waste according to weight and for households to pay by quantity for the amount of waste thrown via designated pre-paid rubbish bags.
Chan said the cost of each bag would be “less than HK$1 each” and would hopefully provide an incentive for the public to try and reduce their waste charge by separating rubbish and recyclables.
He said public management companies would play a key role in the implementation of a waste levy, its collection and enforcement in the future.
But figuring out how to charge the 10 per cent of Hong Kong households in buildings with no management was also tricky, Chan admitted.