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Hong Kong environmental issues

Tenants dumped 10 per cent less and recycled 33 per cent more in Hong Kong pay-for-your-waste experiment

Greeners Action experiment shows charging individual tenants for their rubbish is greater incentive than charging per building

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 7:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, 1:17pm

Tenants of industrial and commercial buildings in Hong Kong would have more incentive to reduce waste if they paid solely for disposal of their own trash instead of charges based on the building average, a green group has concluded following a study of more than 350 offices.

An experiment by Greeners Action found 365 participating tenants of New Tech Plaza at San Po Kong in Kowloon dumped about 10 per cent less and recycled 33 per cent more every week over the past four months when each was charged only for their own waste.

Under Hong Kong’s waste charging scheme set to take effect in 2019, each industrial and commercial building will be charged a landfill fee of between HK$365 and HK$395 per tonne, with tenants equally sharing the cost.

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But residential buildings and street-level shops will be given designated garbage bags ranging from three to 100 litres in capacity. Waste disposed of in these bags will be charged at a rate of 11 Hong Kong cents per litre, and oversized waste at HK$11 per item.

The green group’s study, supported by cash from the government’s Environment and Conservation Fund, gave the two types of bags to be used for residential buildings to the 365 participating tenants of the San Po Kong commercial and industrial block.

The week before the project kicked off on April 18, 308.6kg of waste was dumped by the building and 229.6kg was recycled. Over the following 16 weeks, on average 278.8kg of waste per week – down 9.6 per cent – was dumped, and 306.2kg – up 33.4 per cent – was recycled.

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Other measures were employed to encourage sorting and recycling, including the setting up of 17 recycling boxes and a second-hand exchange platform.

“It’s not fair to ask all the tenants to equally share the disposal fee because some dump more and some less,” said Angus Ho Hon-wai, executive director of Greeners Action.

“Our experiment has shown that the principle of polluters pay can be realised by industrial and commercial buildings adopting the designated bag mode and other tailor-made facilitating measures.”

Jermaine Tam Chun-yee, a sales manager at a beverage company in the building, said he had become more aware of waste reduction and recycling and had started to collect bottles and paper packs from drinks for reprocessing.

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However, though acknowledging Greeners Action’s efforts, Tam said he preferred having a standard rate for rubbish because “we all throw out trash so we all should be responsible”.

A report on the study – set to end in October – will be handed to the government in December.

The Environmental Protection Department said it would consider changing the charging mode after taking into consideration the outcome of a trial it had conducted with property management companies and private waste collectors.