Glass bottle levy must be used to boost recycling projects

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 4:47pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 June, 2016, 4:47pm

Your editorial spoke well of the new legislation for a HK$1 tax to be paid on glass bottles for recycling (“Impose levy on all waste disposal, June 7). Though welcome, it is not complete.

The plan for the funds raised from this fee structure will go into the government’s general revenue fund, with no dedicated allocation to recycling or the environment.

This is a huge missed opportunity for positive public relations for the administration, as happened with the plastic bag levy, which dedicated none of the funds collected for environmental betterment.

I think 100 per cent of the fees raised from the sale of glass bottles should be earmarked for recycling and environmental programmes, and this should be transparent so that trust is built within the community that recycling does actually happen in a proper, well-managed way.

Will Wong Kam-sing, the environment secretary, confirm that this can be the case? If not, we will end up with fees being paid to ill-trained third party contractors, and a collection system which has no improved efficiencies over what is happening today.

That is because a tax on bottles does nothing to incentivise the community to help collect and sort material properly. That burden will be put on the contractors who do not have the resources and capacity to sort through our large-scale waste streams, while cutting corners along the way.

When the time comes to then put a similar fee onto plastic bottles, it would be well advised to create a deposit or rebate programme for those bottles (instead of a tax), because it provides an incentive to the entire community to be “cleaners” for our city.

That is because the bottles will be worth money, and therefore virtually all will be collected.

This has been proven in every country and market where deposits or rebates are used, bringing a much bigger positive impact to the community than a tax, because everyone can directly benefit financially if they spend time to collect and return the valuable plastic material that we are so widely wasting today.

Citizens today are discouraged to be more engaged in our waste system today, because they don’t trust the process. Full transparency on use of recycling taxes collected for full allocation to recycling, and eventually deposit programmes for materials, would greatly improve the city’s waste footprint, and the image that our city deserves.

Douglas Woodring, Ocean Recovery Alliance