SCMP: Nearly 70 per cent of Hongkongers believe a delayed mandatory waste-charging scheme should be implemented, a survey by a local think tank has found.
The survey comes as a Legislative Council meeting to discuss the scheme, which was originally scheduled for next Tuesday, was delayed until early June, according to Frankie Yick Chi-ming, who chairs the bills committee studying the plan.
Two-thirds of more than 1,000 residents polled by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute for Civic Exchange also said paying 11 HK cents per litre of rubbish was an acceptable price.
“These results offer optimism for Hong Kong and reflect that residents support the Polluter Pays principle, and understand they can lessen the burden on the recycling system if they work with industries to reduce waste at the source,” Lawrence Iu, programme manager at Civic Exchange, said. “However, the results also show our recycling and waste disposal infrastructures require a significant update and trust to be rebuilt in the system.”
Waste charging is seen as a bedrock policy to help the city tackle its massive waste problem and push residents to reduce the amount of rubbish they throw away. The scheme would also encourage people to recycle or reuse, to lower the amount they would have to pay to throw out their trash.
It was originally expected to help reduce the amount of waste by 40 per cent in 2022. In 2019, each Hongkonger sent 1.47kg of rubbish to landfills every day. Meanwhile, the recycling rate has hovered around 30 per cent.
First proposed nearly 20 years ago, the waste disposal bill stalled in Legco after the anti-government protests in 2019, with lawmakers across the aisle accusing each other of holding up the process.
Yick said he hoped to move the bill to the next step in the legislative process after the meeting in June. The scheme would see most of the city’s waste disposed of in government-mandated plastic bags, with a fee of HK$1.1 for every 10-litre bag. At this rate, the average household would be paying between HK$33 and HK$51 per month, depending on the size of bags they used.
While 68 per cent of residents polled agreed on implementing the waste-charging scheme, out of the portion of people who were opposed to the policy, 34 per cent cited cost as the main concern.
But Edwin Lau Che-feng, founder and executive director of environmental group The Green Earth, said the cost was not prohibitive at all.
“It is just HK$33 per family each month. That’s less than what you would be paying for lunch,” he said. Meanwhile, a proposed transition period of 12 to 18 months to allow residents to get used to the new waste management system was also reasonable to 79 per cent of residents surveyed.
The survey found support for the scheme was more than 60 per cent among the various demographic groups, such as housewives, executives, service workers and production workers.
Environmental activists called on lawmakers to stop delaying and pass the bill in this legislative term.
“People need to know it costs money [to manage waste]. For too long people have thought waste comes for free and goes for free,” Paul Zimmerman, chief executive of Designing Hong Kong, said. “Putting a charge on it, even if it’s symbolic, is helpful because people are reminded of this.”
Lau said the waste-charging scheme was a must if Hong Kong wanted to reduce its waste, but warned there were still more policies to be enacted to achieve the best outcome.
“You need other sorting facilities and public education to rebuild trust in the system,” he said
Originally published on SCMP on May 20th.