Calls to ramp up manpower to prevent illegal dumping in new Hong Kong waste-charge plan

Groups argue against charging buildings for trash disposal and suggest bills per flat instead, as well as increasing the number of inspection officers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 May, 2017, 7:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 May, 2017, 5:53pm

Green groups and a union for environmental protection ­workers have urged the government to set up a designated office with up to 1,000 staff to boost enforcement of laws on the dumping of waste.

The call came before a Legislative Council meeting on Monday to discuss plans for new waste disposal charges in which the city’s households will have to pay about HK$33 to HK$51 monthly.

The group also argued against the model of one single charge for a whole building hiring private rubbish collectors. It suggested individual flats be billed instead.

Minister behind Hong Kong’s waste-charging scheme admits rules will be hard to enforce

The Environment Bureau has proposed a quantity-based charging scheme of 11 cents per litre on the disposal of municipal solid waste. Full implementation is expected in the second half of 2019.

To facilitate the scheme, six green groups and a workers’ union urged the government to set up an additional “waste reduction office” under the bureau, to carry out checks around the city’s public areas and private housing estates.

Samson Lau Wai-tak, secretary of the foreman grade union under the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, said an additional 700 to 1,000 workers were needed to guard against illegal dumping in private buildings, as current law enforcement officers only covered public areas.

Hong Kong landfills overflow as household waste rises for fifth year running

He said people might try to avoid being charged for waste disposal by dumping garbage in places such as shopping malls, creating further problems.

“There are not enough people to carry out checks,” Lau said. Currently the foreman grade branch has 1,042 staff members.

There are not enough people to carry out checks
Samson Lau Wai-tak, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

It is understood 50 more people will be added to the existing team – comprising inspectors who enforce the law – in June.

By setting up a “one-stop” office, the responsibilities of government departments will be clearer when the scheme comes into effect, Lau added.

In addition, the groups urged a modification of the government’s model, which “charges by weight”. Under this model, premises and buildings that hire private collectors to dispose of waste at landfills or refuse transfer stations will be charged based on the weight of trash handled.

But Chu Hong-keung, director of environmental advocacy at charity The Green Earth, said the model was not fair to building users who produced less waste.

He said “every unit should be “charged by a designated garbage bag” out of nine types of bags of varying sizes, priced at an average of 11 cents per litre.

Hong Kong’s waste charge will reduce our rubbish levels, never mind the naysayers

According to official statistics, the average Hongkonger throws out about 1.39kg of household waste per day. A target was set in 2014 to slash that figure by 40 per cent by 2022.

The city’s municipal solid waste has increased by over 80 per cent in the past 30 years, far outpacing the population growth of 34 per cent.