Hong Kong green group calls for teams to be sent into estates to explain waste charges
Environmentalists say the government needs to build trust when making people pay for their daily rubbish
A waste reduction team modelled on the Tobacco Control Office should be created and sent into residential estates to promote awareness of solid waste charging when it is officially in place.
Advocacy group the Green Earth said this would help the government engage the public and prevent complaints of ignorance about the fees during the three-year transition period. It could also reduce the burden of enforcement officials.
Environment minister Wong Kam-sing said long-delayed charges for the disposal of the waste could come into force no earlier than the second half of 2019. He is to unveil more details on Monday and the plans will be discussed next week by members of the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel.
Green Earth’s environmental advocacy director, Hahn Chu Hon-keung, said: “Of course it would be good if the [Health Department’s] team had enforcement powers, but at the beginning it could help carry out public engagement at public and private estates, with property management companies and cleaning workers.
“It would be a formula similar to the Tobacco Control Office. There is a need to build trust in the government’s waste reduction efforts.”
Government advisers in 2014 recommended an average charge for a three-person household of about HK$30 to HK$44 a month for waste disposal based on the use of designated rubbish bags. Trials at different estates priced one-month use of five-litre bags at HK$22.5, 10-litre ones at HK$45, 15-litre ones at HK$67.5 and 20-litre ones at HK$90.
Janet Yuen Wing-yan, who shares a flat with six relatives at a private estate in Kwai Hing and took part in the trial, said charging gave them an incentive to be more aware about how much waste they threw away.
“We’ve found that about 20 per cent of our daily waste can actually be recycled,” she said.
Yuen’s family had assumed they would need the 20-litre bags, but after a month realised they would not be happy about having to pay more than HK$100.
So they switched to the 15-litre bags, which lowered the mock charge to HK$67.
“We realised a 20-litre bag was quite big for our family,” she said. “If we remove kitchen waste from the mix, even a 10-litre bag would be enough.”
Green Earth also identified enforcement of illegal fly-tipping and support for low-income households as key challenges. It recommended officials assist those on social security with the levy, rather than exempt them, by giving out some rubbish bags for free.