Incentives needed if household recycling plan is to achieve its 80pc coverage goal Domestic charges and changes in building codes are being considered to boost household waste recycling as environmental officials warn of difficulties in further pushing ahead with a voluntary waste separation scheme. Officials say about 420 housing estates have joined the scheme, which they stress is close to meeting the target of 460 estates by the end of this year. These include private and public estates, and some government housing quarters, out of 1,000 that have been approached with offers of tailor-made advice and even subsidies to implement the scheme. However, as environmental protection chiefs have set a target of 80 per cent population coverage by 2010, there is a long way to go, with the scheme only having achieved 26 per cent coverage at present. 'It is increasingly difficult as many who have a heart to do it have already joined,' said Lawrence Wong Tung-kwong, principal environmental protection officer. 'Without an incentive like a waste charge, it would be more difficult to recruit new ones by simply convincing them about the environmental benefits.' Details about charges are still being formulated and they would not be introduced until at least 2009 or 2010. Launched two years ago, the scheme encourages waste recovery containers to be placed on each floor, in waste rooms and rear staircases or ground-level lift lobbies of residential buildings, instead of relying on street recycling bins. But not all buildings, such as single-block estates, are suitable for retrofits - or specially made recycling containers - because of insufficient space, lack of an owners' corporation or support from residents. There may also be difficulties such as blocking of fire escape access. Ellen Chen Ying-lung, assistant director of environmental protection, said her colleagues had proposed to the Buildings Department that legislation be introduced to require developers to build a 1.5 metres square waste recovery room on every floor in new buildings. However, members of a Buildings Department subcommittee that includes developers have not reached a consensus after two meetings and could not agree on whether gross floor areas could be exempted from calculations. 'When you buy a property, you might only pay attention to how big the clubhouse is and not even notice where to dump waste. But this is something you can't ignore,' Ms Chen said. Edwin Lau Che-feng, acting director of Friends of the Earth, said the government should give a clear message on a waste charge timetable to property owners to allow time for them to make changes. 'Good timing is needed for a waste charge or it might lead to anger if separation or recycling facilities are not ready,' he said. Mr Lau said that as well as considering charges, the government should offer more positive incentives, such as greater subsidies to property owners to install retrofits.