A regrettable aspect of life in an affluent society is that people often have no choice but to discard waste that contains useful materials because it is not economically viable for firms to recycle them. So these materials contribute to the growing amount of waste that needs to be carted off to landfills, all at the taxpayer's expense. Where the waste contains toxic substances, the cost of handling them is even higher. So it is welcome news that the Government is about to announce measures to make the recycling industry more viable by providing operators with cheap land, the SAR's most pricey commodity. The new policy breaches the general rule that the Government should not provide assistance to any particular industry. But if the costs of helping the industry are more than that of processing an otherwise bigger amount of waste, then the subsidy may be justified. Of course, the subsidy should be kept simple and under constant review to prevent abuse. In the same light, the plan to set up recycling programmes for batteries and electronic appliances is also welcome. With the proliferation of mobile phones, for example, the number of discarded batteries has been rising dramatically. Although all batteries contain warnings that they should not be disposed of as domestic refuse, users are often not told of the proper means of disposal. Nor is there any centralised mechanism to collect and process the millions of batteries thrown away every year in the SAR. In fact, many of the chemicals inside the batteries can be recycled. So can the metal casings of electrical appliances and chips inside computers. Left untreated in landfills, they can contaminate soil and underground waters. The answer to preventing such ecological damage must lie in making the users pay for the costs of recycling the chemicals. At present, recycling does not pay only because the cost of handling discarded products as waste is borne by the Government, not consumers or mobile phone operators. If the user-pays principle can be extended to cover the cost of handling discarded products, then the economics of recycling will become very different and Hong Kong will become a more environmentally friendly city.