Pay-as-you-throw rubbish scheme could cost Hong Kong households HK$44 a month

Committee considering pay-as-you-throw charging scheme favours price of 15 to 39 cents per kg. Green groups believe it should be more

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 4:29am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 4:51pm

A typical household should pay a maximum of HK$44 per month to dispose of waste when pay-as-you-throw charging is introduced, a Council for Sustainable Development subcommittee has recommended.

The subcommittee also favoured introducing solid waste charges on a blanket basis for both residents and businesses, but wanted charges to be "consistent". And there should be no exemptions to the charge, even for the needy.

The government-appointed council was tasked with gauging public views and coming up with a model for waste charging, which green activists see as the best way to encourage recycling and cut the level of waste going to the city's bursting landfills. Charging is to be introduced by 2016 at the earliest.

The recommendations were made after a behind-closed-doors meeting of the council's strategy group and its support group on charging yesterday. The views must be endorsed by the full council before it reports to the Environment Bureau.

Members in attendance said the general view was that charges should be between HK$30 and HK$44 per month for a three-person household. Based on an average of 1.27kg of waste produced per person, as established in a 2011 study, that would mean charging 25 to 39 cents per kg.

The range was supported by more than half of the 5,000 people who filled in questionnaires during a recent consultation.

About 19 per cent wanted charges of between HK$45 and HK$59 per month. Eight per cent chose HK$60 to HK$74 while 4.6 per cent favoured a figure between 10 cents and HK$29.

Green activists say a charge too low will be ineffective. But council chairman Bernard Chan has previously expressed concern that too high a charge will lead to fly-tipping.

Members rejected the idea of exemptions for underprivileged groups, saying charities and NGOs could help them.

For businesses, a level of HK$500 per 1,000kg was supported by most members.

Support group member Hahn Chu Hon-keung, an environmentalist, questioned whether the suggested level was enough.

"Is it really enough for us to realise the 2022 waste reduction target?" Chu said, referring to the government's goal of reducing per capita waste generation by 40 per cent in the next eight years.

He said the as-yet unanswered question of how charging would operate would also have an effect. The council has been accused of favouring charging by weight based on buildings, rather than individual households, though council chiefs insist no decision been taken.

Fellow member Simon Wong Ka-wo, of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, favoured a charge closer to the lower end of the range. "A bump-free introduction is very important for the charging to succeed, and a lower level could make this happen," he said.

Chan has argued that the most appropriate approach would be to have stiff penalties for fly-tipping but a reasonable waste charge.