Waste charge futile without separation of rubbish at source

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 February, 2015, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 February, 2015, 4:53pm

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing's proposed waste charging scheme is another example of our overpaid principal officials cherry-picking an idea without addressing the root cause of the problem ("Bill on charging for waste 'likely to be aggressive'", February 18).

They visited countries to examine incinerators, but not their recycling effort. They look at Taipei and other countries to examine waste charging, but not how they create the infrastructure to complement waste charging.

Taiwan introduced a pay scheme for garbage only after implementing a comprehensive waste management plan, including aggressive waste separation at source and recycling.

Just charging people for waste means added costs without addressing the root problem: the absence of waste separation at source so that recyclable waste and waste delivered to landfills and incinerator are sorted separately. All the waste that is collected after waste charging is implemented still ends up in the landfills in the same black plastic bag as in today's arrangement.

A waste charging system does not end with the collection of fees. Complementary measures must be implemented at the same time. Before official implementation of the waste charge, a "Keep Trash Off the Ground" policy and "3-in-1 Resource Recovery Scheme" were carried out by the Taipei government in 1996 and 1997, respectively. The former made sure that people must classify waste at home and hand rubbish to the collection vehicles at specified times; the latter required the public to hand recyclables to the resource recovery vehicles that follow the waste collection vehicles twice a week, integrating waste separation, resource recycling and waste collection at one shot. Since 2003, resource recovery collection has increased to five times a week, and a free recovery service for kitchen waste is also provided. Since 2005, compulsory recycling has been in place.

The "Hong Kong: Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022" shows no plan for Hong Kong to implement a city-wide waste separation at source, the only developed city in the world that does not do so.

Yet, secretary Wong is proposing to do what bureaucrats do best: creating another bureaucracy headed by two senior officials to oversee the waste charging scheme.

The scheme should not be approved by Legco unless and until a truly holistic waste management policy is developed that includes waste separation at source, aggressive recycling, and the deployment of advanced thermal treatment technology.

Tom Yam, Lantau