Green groups want phased approach to landfill funding

Environmentalists hope new approach could hold government to account over waste

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 March, 2014, 4:28am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 March, 2014, 4:48am

Green groups want the government to apply for landfill expansion funds in stages so that it can be held to account for its progress in waste reduction.

Their suggestion comes ahead of today's public hearing into the government's plans to expand the city's three landfills and build an HK$18.2 billion incinerator off Shek Kwu Chau.

The groups - Green Power, Friends of the Earth, Greeners Action and the Conservancy Association - are disappointed by what they claim is a lack of effort by the government to reach waste reduction targets. They hope it will be more likely to meet pledges if it has to report progress to the public every time it seeks more funding for the landfills.

"The critical issue here is public trust," said Friends of the Earth's Frances Yeung Hoi-shan. "We understand it takes time to tackle problems that have accumulated for a long time. Many of the previous promises were not realised, so the government would have to go further to let us know the same thing would not happen again."

Yeung gave the example of the government seeking funds for a feasibility study into expanding the Tuen Mun landfill. Yeung said the government could pledge goals in the study so that when it later applied for funds for the expansion itself the public could refer back to see whether the targets had been met.

The government has warned the landfills in Tuen Mun, Tseung Kwan O and Ta Kwu will be full by 2019, but the Legislative Council's environmental affairs panel has so far declined to endorse its plans and called today's meeting to gauge the public's views.

The four green groups said they would not support the plans unless the government implemented waste charges by 2016, introduced policies to support recycling by 2018 and banned food and recyclable waste from being sent to landfills and incinerators by 2022. They also want it to charge producers of plastic bottles, rubber tyres and timber by 2018, and ensure construction waste is taken to landfill rather than dumped illegally.

Secretary for Environment Wong Kam-sing said the groups' suggestion showed they recognised the need for landfill expansion and the construction of incinerators. He said the government's waste management blueprint released last year shared their vision.