The government will decide this year whether it will impose a levy on the use of plastic bags as part of its efforts to reduce solid waste. A study that would consider the effectiveness, impact and enforcement issues of such a levy was nearing completion. This was stated by Permanent Secretary for Environment Keith Kwok Ka-keung yesterday before Legco as he sought to reassure lawmakers that the government did not favour waste disposal over recycling. Apart from plastic bags, officials said they were also looking at recycling polystyrene foam, rechargeable batteries and rubber tyres under product responsibility schemes. The proposed schemes would require product users, retailers or wholesalers to be responsible for collecting used products for recycling. Despite repeated assurances from officials on waste reduction and recycling, the lawmakers at yesterday's environmental affairs panel remained sceptical. They even refrained from discussing further details of six recommendations for waste treatment such as incineration and composting and criticised officials for being vague in their priorities in dealing with waste and failing to set reduction targets. 'If you are selling incineration to us, I am worried that the efforts on pushing recycling will be wasted and the drive for that will be gone,' said democrat lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong, who cited the poor recovery rate of waste polystyrene foam. He said only 12 tonnes of foam was collected a year, compared with over 40,000 tonnes dumped in the landfills. However, Mr Kwok denied that the government had been trying to sell the incineration idea to legislators. He said reduction of waste and recycling were being given equal importance in drawing up the policy. Mr Kwok said the city recycled about 40 per cent or 2.8 million tonnes of its municipal solid waste last year, outperforming some countries such as France, Switzerland and Denmark. 'We cannot also simply ignore the final treatment because [space for] land-filling is reaching a very critical stage.' He said the government would list the targets and detailed measures for handling waste in a white paper to be published in the second quarter of this year.