Stop the foot-dragging and introduce a levy on waste
Despite years of talk, proposed charge on garbage disposal has yet to see the light of day in Hong Kong, one of the world’s most wasteful cities
The government prides itself for being one of the most efficient in the world. Yet there is no shortage of examples to prove otherwise. Take the long-overdue municipal waste charge as an example. Years have passed since the idea was first raised as a solution to our overflowing landfills but so far it has been all talk and no action. The delay is unacceptable in a city known to be one of the most wasteful on Earth. The levy would have been in place last year if not for foot-dragging by the government. Now the sense of urgency in implementing the scheme has waned, especially after funding to expand our landfills was approved a few years ago.
The latest plan is to table the relevant law to the legislature for approval in the first half of this year, followed by 12 to 18 months of preparation to start the scheme. It has been estimated that an average household would have to pay about HK$30 a month for disposing garbage. It is unclear whether the legislative work can be completed before the new administration takes office on July 1. We hope environment minister Wong Kam-sing meant business when he set 2019 as the revised target for introducing the levy. Given the logistics involved and the prevailing political atmosphere, further delay is possible. It is important for the next government to press ahead with the scheme and for lawmakers to refrain from dragging out the legislative process.
There are those who object to making people pay for the disposal of waste. They argue that the levy is essentially punitive, as many goods and produce are over-packaged and households have little control over how much they discard. Be that as it may, garbage disposal has huge financial and environmental costs. Similar to the plastic bag levy, a waste charge serves as a solid reminder of the costs involved. Hopefully, it can result in changes at the household, retail and manufacturing levels.
The average Hongkonger dumped 1.39kg of solid waste per day in 2015, making us one of the world’s most wasteful cities. We cannot afford to waste any more time in implementing a charge on garbage disposal.