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:
- Government allocates waste collection quota to each building or estate based on the number of households;
- Waste collectors provide designated waste bins and pick up filled bins;
- If the building exceeds the collection quota, waste collection company charge a hefty fee on each additional waste bin collected.
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:
- Government would continue to honor its waste collection services cover by the property rates;
- Everyone will bear the same waste reduction and economical responsibility, regardless of their socio-economical status, industries and sectors;
- Building occupants will force one another to reduce waste in order to avoid exceeding the waste collection quota and paying the hefty fees;
- Less administrative work (i.e. selling and bookkeeping the bags) for the property management
- Lower chance of a property management fees hike;
- Less enforcement responsibility from the government;
- 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.