How I Think Waste Charging Should Be Implemented

About a week ago, my article titled “Why Municipal Solid Waste Charging Fails” outlined the reasons why waste charging schemes proposed by Hong Kong’s Council of Sustainable Development would ultimately fail.  Today, I want to propose some suggestions as to how I think waste charging should be implemented in Hong Kong.

In numerous occasions, chair of Council for Sustainable Development Mr. Bernard Chan declares that the government’s main objective of introducing waste charging is to induce behavioral changes of every citizen and business to reduce waste. And given Hong Kong’s huge budget surplus, Hong Kong Government has no mean to use the charge as a way to increase government’s revenue.

If this is the case, simply by setting a quota on the amount and frequency of waste collected for “free”, and charging a hefty fees for those who exceed the quota would have served this objective.

I envision the quota system would consist of three simple steps:

  1. Government allocates waste collection quota to each building or estate based on the number of households;
  2. Waste collectors provide designated waste bins and pick up filled bins;
  3. If the building exceeds the collection quota, waste collection company charge a hefty fee on each additional waste bin collected.

Two types of bins that are commonly used in Hong Kong’s waste collection:
The smaller one on the left holds about 59kg of waste. The larger one on the right holds about 200kg of waste. Both bins could be considered as options to the designated bins.

Initially, government could set a lenient quota of 5% reduction in the amount and frequency of waste collection to prepare people for the adjustment to the new waste management practice. As more local recycling and food waste facilities begin to operate, government would then set stringent quota and aggressively cut down the amount of “free” waste collection. Quota will continue to be cut down until the waste reduction target set forth in Environmental Bureau’s Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources is met.

When compare to the government’s waste charging proposal, I believe my proposal yields much more benefit to the society:

  1. Government would continue to honor its waste collection services cover by the property rates;
  2. Everyone will bear the same waste reduction and economical responsibility, regardless of their socio-economical status, industries and sectors;
  3. Building occupants will force one another to reduce waste in order to avoid exceeding the waste collection quota and paying the hefty fees;
  4. Less administrative work (i.e. selling and bookkeeping the bags) for the property management
  5. Lower chance of a property management fees hike;
  6. Less enforcement responsibility from the government;
  7. Much lower cost in running the waste reduction program

I acknowledge that my proposal has its drawback (i.e. the likelihood of fly-tipping when someone uses up their entire waste collection quota). Nevertheless, I believe with proper monitoring (i.e. installing closed-circuit television and heavily fining those who fly-tip), we should be able to resolve some of the drawbacks at a relatively lower administrative cost.

Waste management and social justice are equally important to Hong Kong. For the former, Hong Kong citizens agree that we need to do what we can to cut down our waste. As for the latter, Hong Kong citizens would not like to see policy that could ultimately bring inequality and economic burdens to people.

I hope my proposal above along with the arguments that I wrote previously against waste charging could encourage everyone to start a dialogue to urge the Council of Sustainable Development and Environmental Bureau to stop pushing people to support their unfair waste charging proposal, but to start rationalizing their waste charging proposal and make it equal for all.

2 thoughts on “How I Think Waste Charging Should Be Implemented

  1. Finally, I have found a sensible comment on this issue. Hey man, I am on your side, I attended the local forum hosted by PC and gave me a sense of feeling that that other option wasn’t on the table at all. If there is no strong opposition, the gov’t will go ahead to propose a small levy of garbage bag to the public. All it does is to introduce a lump sum tax on household garbage dumping nothing else unless they are dare to propose a 30 dollars per bag. Even it may lead to another problem, at lease its wake up call to Hong Kong people.

    Your idea is a good start for a real behavioural change, simply and neat. Well, our gov’t has more fear to the opinion leader in our society than citizen in general. You propose a waste charging scheme to the estate or any other property, you give away problem to the management and the owner committee, and somehow many OC itself can trace the linkage to the political parties. That’s what really scare our Gov’t off. So they choose to “Hea 做” instead of biting the bullet. Well. at lease they can finish an item in their agenda. That’s what I sense.
    Btw, I am writing my version of waste charge proposal, may be we can exchange idea later on.

    • Hi Richard,

      Thank you for reading my post. I am glad that you agree with my points.
      I also attended the local forum. After attending the forum, I have a feeling that both the Sustainable Development Council and the Government simply do not want to hear any other suggestions on rationalizing the current waste charging proposal. They simply want to push forth their set agenda of charging everyone $30 and leave aside all the costly administratively expenses and political aftermath.
      If you finish writing your article on waste charging proposal, please go ahead and leave a link to this post. I am more than happy to exchange ideas with you on this topic.

      -Tim

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