I refer to two letters on December 13 on waste charging, from Tony Henderson ("Solid waste charge should be last resort") and Karina Chow ("New policy could face stiff resistance").
Let me first deal with the range of measures to provide a fuller picture of our waste strategy.
Firstly, we aim to reduce waste at source. On December 6, we announced the Food Wise Campaign to tackle household and commercial-industrial food waste. We wish to galvanise the community to adopt new practices to reduce and improve the handling of food waste. We will bring in new legislation this year to deal with electrical and electronic waste, and extend the plastic bag levy scheme to cover all retail outlets. We will also shortly consult the public on implementing a glass recycling system.
Secondly, Hong Kong's recycling rate in 2011 was 48 per cent. By 2015, we aim to increase it to 55 per cent. This requires us to work with the community to improve separation of waste at source. We will announce new initiatives shortly.
Thirdly, we need to recover energy and resources from unavoidable waste and reduce the bulk volume before it goes to our landfills.
A state-of-the-art sludge incinerator is being built in Tuen Mun and will be commissioned in a year's time. We will also build two organic waste treatment plants to handle food waste. We hope to secure full funding for them to come into operation in 2016 and 2017.
Our municipal waste charging proposal should be seen within the context of existing measures or those we are about to implement. Our previous public consultation shows the people support the principle of waste charging. The Council on Sustainable Development will further engage the public this year on details of a charging scheme. This may allow the government to legislate, with charging beginning by 2016. We will take affordability into account. The issue of illegal dumping and fly-tipping will be considered as part of designing the waste charging system.
Fourthly, our three landfills will be full within this decade. When all the above-mentioned measures are in place, Hong Kong will still have to dispose of about 9,000 tonnes of waste per day. Thus, we will need to expand landfill capacities, and apply modern incineration technology as a total package.
We appreciate the total picture is complicated and has many parts.
We will be putting out a new waste management policy paper in the new year and look forward to the community's comments.
Christine Loh, undersecretary for the environment