Last week, lawmakers of a works subcommittee voted in favour of expanding the near-saturated landfills in Tuen Mun and Ta Kwu Ling, clearing the first hurdle for a final vote on the funding of feasibility studies. Regrettably, the outcome remains unclear, and some opposing members are now toying with the idea of a flilibuster. The tactic is an unnecessary distraction that would only further delay long overdue action on the problem.
While officials gear up for the showdown on Friday, they should not lose sight of another long-term battle - recycling.
Ahead of the vote last Tuesday, it was announced that Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would lead a high-level steering committee to oversee recycling. These include whether the trade should be subsidised. The gesture does little to smooth the vote ahead. But it is reassuring that recycling is high on the government agenda now. Given Lam's track record, hopes are high that the panel is not just window-dressing to smooth the Legco vote.
The government boasts a recovery rate between 48 to 52 per cent over the past few years. That means some three million tonnes of recyclable materials are recovered each year and exported to the mainland, Taiwan, Japan, Korean and other Southeast Asian countries for recycling. Encouraging as it sounds, the figures belie the problems with the flagging industry. It was reported that plastic bottles collected from recycle bins were sometimes dumped in the landfill; simply because they were dirty. The numerous warning letters issued to the recycling contractor speaks volumes of the inadequacies.
The government's doctrine of maintaining a free-market economy and a level playing field for all means individual businesses and industries are not expected to receive subsidies. But no effective waste-management strategy can do without recycling. In light of its importance, the public good involved clearly outweighs the commercial interest concerns.
The need for bigger landfills and better recycling is evident. Delays and inaction are no solutions to the mounting problem.