You dump and you pay?

By Tsang Ka Yi

Have you considered reducing your household waste disposal everyday now? Will your mind be changed if you are told to pay for garbage you disposed?

The consultation of household rubbish disposal charge started recently. The Commission of Sustainable Development has put forward 3 proposals for the consultation. The capacity of the landfills in Hong Kong will be saturated soon and at the same time, the long-term solution of the waste treatment like building incinerator is yet to achieve. Therefore, the government wants to utilize the disposal charge to reduce waste production at the source.

The first proposal is to charge each household according to the waste amount produced. The second and third proposals are charging the whole building by the waste size or amount and the cost is evenly distributed to each household.

The main controversy I would like to discuss is that whether this legislation is fair to everyone in Hong Kong. Also, which proposal may be the best solution to reduce waste production?

 

First of all, I don’t think that the second and third proposals are fair enough to everyone.

We all know that the amount of waste produced by each household is different. So, why should everyone be charged the same cost? This may deviate from the main objective of the legislation claimed by the government. That is, to reduce waste at the source. If every household in a common building bears the cost evenly, the one who produce more waste may feel that there are others to share their charges and may therefore lack motivation to reduce waste disposal. Hence, this charge system may be unfair to some people producing less waste. Also, we have to bear in mind that there is a group of people who are environmentalists. Some housing estates in Hong Kong have introduced a recycling system and hence people can recycle different waste separately every week. As a result, the waste they dispose each day is only of a small amount. This will in turn punish those people with incentive to protect the environment. How could this legislation provide the motivation for people to reduce waste production when people doing waste recycling are being punished?

 

In addition, some buildings in Hong Kong have multiple usages, especially those in central business district like Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. These buildings have both residential and commercial uses such as Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui. It is not convenience for practice actually. Since the waste production volume of commercial and residential units are hugely different. For example, the waste and leftover produced by a restaurant should be far larger than those disposed by residential households. Thus, it is totally unfair to residential households if the charge is equally taken by each unit within the same building.

 

In my opinion, the first proposal is the fairest method to charge waste disposal.

However, there are still many details the government has to pay attention to and I got some suggestions.

 

The government should provide enough evidence to prove that the charge can effectively reduce waste production in Hong Kong. On the other hand, it has to make sure that the cost of collecting charge will reasonably be lower than the benefits from reducing waste. Also, the government can set up a fund using the charges collected to spend on environment protection or waste reduction. This can soothe the public concern of where the charges will go.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWITc7AlWN8

Hong Kong: World’s most wasteful city

 

What do you feel after watching the video? Do you agree that our government should charge our waste disposal in order to reduce waste?

 

More about the topic:

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/taiwan_hk_trash_mar08.pdf

 

Reference:

 

1. Experts propose ways to make Hong Kong a green metropolis, South China Morning Post, 25 September 2013.

2. Hong Kong may charge for rubbish disposal, Channel Newsasia, 25 September 2013. Available at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/hong-kong-may-charge-for/826174.html

3. 廢物徵費次階段諮詢文件提三方案, Now News, 25 September 2013.

4. Waste and Recycling in Hong Kong, GovHK. Available at http://www.gov.hk/en/residents/environment/waste/wasterecycinhk.htm

5. SMMART Waste Management Pays Off in Taiwan, Angelina Jao, Waste Managemetn World, 2011. Available at http://www.waste-management-world.com/articles/print/volume-13/issue-5/wmw-special-recycling-focus/smmart-waste-management-pays-off-in-taiwan.html

11 thoughts on “You dump and you pay?

  1. Wu Xu Ling (3035022447)

    Thanks for your posting!

    I totally agree with you that it is high time that the Hong Kong government should find an effective way to reduce the enormous amount of waste generated every day. According to the statistics, the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department, “in 2010 the daily amount of municipal solid waste, which includes domestic, commercial and industrial waste, was about 19,000 tons, which are five percent more per capita than the residents of Beijing”. At the current rate, it’s estimated that Hong Kong’s three major landfills will be at full capacity by 2019.

    Actually, Taipei and Seoul have the quantity-based system to reduce the amount of waste. It requires households and commercial operators to buy standard rubbish bags for waste collection. Which is worth-mentioning is that the bags are very expensive. Hence, the less waste they generate, the less they need to spend on buying the bags. I think charging waste is an important way to encourage people to reduce waste and participate in recycling. Because they need to recycle to reduce the amount of garbage they dispose and have less payment.
    In a word, Hong Kongers should pay for their rubbish dumped.

    Reference:
    http://www.scmp.com/article/989817/would-you-pay-have-your-rubbish-dumped

  2. Yeung Ka Yi Helen (3035068295)

    Ka Yi, thanks for bringing up this issue.

    As you have mentioned, the landfills in Hong Kong are going to saturated very soon. Imposing charge on household rubbish disposal seems to be the fastest and the most effective way to solve this problem in the short run. The case is actually quite similar to the plastic bag levy that imposed in 2009. The usage of plastic bags has greatly reduced after the levy had imposed even though the amount charge per plastic bag is not significant. This reveals that people will have more initiative to change their behavior when it comes to their personal interest. Therefore, it can be said that the rubbish disposal charge is the extended part of the plastic bag levy and can further alleviate the solid waste problem.

    However, in spite of the fairness, the first proposal has its limitations and difficulties in practice. For example, that how to calculate each household’s dumped rubbish is quite hard. Some household may disposal their garbage in public garbage cans, resulting in inaccuracy of the garbage charge. Moreover, the implementation of this charge may create inconvenience to both government and citizen. This may lower the effectiveness of this proposal. Therefore, the government should simplify the process in order to save cost and maintain the citizen’s initiative.

    Last but not least, legislation is only a short term solution. To bring true benefit to Hong Kong in the long run, education is needed to increase citizens’ environmental awareness.

  3. Lephia CHAN Yuen Fan 3035061443

    Thanks for picking this interesting topic.

    I agree that the first proposal is the fairest one. However, I think the household rubbish disposal is not really practical and efficient.

    For of all, it is not practical because of the lack of supervision. Nobody is standing next to the garbage collection area and supervise every disposal at all time. Hence, no matter it is charged from the selling price of garbage bags or according to the weight of garbage disposed, the household still have chance to disposal their garbage ‘illegally’ without being traced and caught.

    Besides, this proposal is not efficient too. I agree that we can treat it as an extension of plastic bag charge. Yet, we can’t expect it would result in similar response as the plastic bag charge proposal. The natures between them are very different actually. The public reduced their usage of plastic bags because they have substitution – recycling bags. Yet, the garbage disposal by household every day is more or less the same. The amount cannot be reduced much even they intend to do so. They can’t lower their dump because all garbage is useless. Under this proposal, they would only choose to pay the charge.

    (Total: 200 words)

  4. Song Xin Ying (3035023336)

    Ka Yi, thank you very much for sharing this post. Now high density of population and limited available land indeed make Hong Kong difficult to dispose the mountains of trash every day. Policies are needed to tackle this problem. While I do agree the levy for dumping is a fast way to reduce the amount of trash, the fact should also not be neglected is that it would be quite difficult to practice no matter which of the three proposals is implemented. That is because, on the one hand, it would generate extra cost and increase the management’s workload to measure the waste amount every day so as to determine the charge. On the other hand, the policy will also lead people to dump in the public places to avoid the charges. As a result, the effectiveness of reducing trash would turn out to be unsatisfying.

    To reduce the amount of trash, I believe that it is more effective to control the source of rubbish. The reason is that, as Lephia mentioned above, the levy policy actually cannot reduce much of people’s dumping because most of the trash is usually useless and it is worthless for people to keep it. So to reduce the rubbish fundamentally, I would suggest one important way, which is to make use of the recycling material as well as avoid using the spare packing material. Now many producers tend to pack their goods using disposable material. These materials has caused large amount of trash and cannot be recycled. Policies can be made to encourage the producers to use the recycling material to package their products. Also, the over-packaging of some goods should also be simplified so as to be more environmental-friendly. I believe this would help reduce the amount of trash as well as saving resources more effectively.

    Reference:
    1. Can Hong Kong Solve its Garbage Crisis?(2012), Andrew Price, Retrieved from http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2012/02/can-hong-kong-solve-its-garbage-crisis/1144/
    2. 廢物徵費 未學行先學走(2013),Xiao Bing, Retrieved from http://www.hket.com/eti/article/d3dd4347-ad1b-410a-a4dc-2ebb60e5c476-160054

  5. Song Xin Ying (3035023336)

    Thank you very much for sharing this post. While I do agree the levy for dumping is a fast way to reduce the amount of trash, the fact should also be figured out is that it would be quite difficult to practice no matter which of the three disposals is implemented as you mentioned.

    To reduce the amount of trash, I believe that it is more effective to control the source of rubbish. One way would be to make use of the recycling material and avoid using the unnecessary packing material. Now many producers tend to pack their goods using disposable material and these materials has caused large amount of trash and cannot be recycled. Policies are recommended to be made to encourage the producers to use the recycling material to pack their products. Also, the over-packaging of some goods should also be simplified so as to be more environmental-friendly. I believe this would help reduce the amount of trash as well as saving resources more effectively.

    Reference:
    1. Can Hong Kong Solve its Garbage Crisis?(2012), Andrew Price, Retrieved from http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2012/02/can-hong-kong-solve-its-garbage-crisis/1144/
    2. 廢物徵費 未學行先學走(2013),Xiao Bing, Retrieved from http://www.hket.com/eti/article/d3dd4347-ad1b-410a-a4dc-2ebb60e5c476-160054

  6. Leung Pak Ho (UID: 3035062631)

    From my point of view, charging household on dumping rubbish provides incentive for household to reduce domestic waste as we can see lots of successful cases in the world, for example, Taipei has reduced its volume of domestic waste for 40 percent after the charging scheme has implemented for several years. However, implementing such scheme in Hong Kong faces huge difficulties both in calculating the charges and collecting the charges as context of buildings in Hong Kong is complex. The Government has thought of using indirect methods to calculate charges such as estimating the volume of rubbish a household produces by water usage and using buildings as basic unit to charge the fee. However, as households are not charged directly proportional to the rubbish they produce, the incentive to reduce waste is weakened. The Blogger also mentioned the fairness issue involved if the whole building is charged as one unit instead of charging different households in different amount. In addition, I think the charge should be progressive, that is, if you produce more, charges on additional unit will have a higher unit price. By using progressive charge, the incentive to reduce waste is even stronger.

    Name: Leung Pak Ho
    UID: 3035062631

  7. Cheng Shing Yu, Tiffany (3035067863)

    Thank you so much for your post, Ka Yi! It is such a controversy on whether household waste should be charged to citizens, especially when the poverty problem is worsening in Hong Kong. I am totally agree with your point that among those 3 proposal suggested by the consultation of household rubbish disposal charge, the 1st one is the most feasible one and tends to be more fair to the public.

    Personally speaking, I support the charges. Since the charge will play an important role in waste avoidance, which is the base under the waste management concept hierarchy of the European Union. Everyone should bear the responsibility of generating waste to the community. In addition, the recycling industry is not under good development in Hong Kong, we can hardly rely on waste recycling to meet the looming landfill saturation in Hong Kong. It is necessary for that government to the think of the potential loopholes in this kind of waste charging law, such as increasing amount of public wastes, and consider the countermeasure when faces public opposition. Also, the government are responsible to disclose how the charged money has been used. In these cases, the government can actually refer to the successful case in different cities, like Tai Pei and London, for their low landfill rate and sustainable support to the recycling industries.

    Reference:

    Lui, H. L. (2003). A study of the recycling of domestic solid waste in Hong Kong. The HKU Scholar Hub, The University of Hong Kong.

    Legislative Council of Hong Kong. (2005). Management of Municipal Solid Waste in Selected Places. Research and Library Services Division, Legislative Council of Hong Kong.

  8. Lien Huai Jen (2012549498)

    I totally agree with the severity of waste problem in Hong Kong. I believe the overall waste problem should be tackled in three aspects at the same time.

    First, waste should be reduced. There should be regulations and policies to discourage general consumers as well as manufacturers to reduce waste. For instance, compulsory fee on plastic bags, ban of using disposable utensils, and preventing products from over-packaging could all reach the aim.

    The second aspect to address is to establish a more proper and efficient recycling system. Some more concrete methods to achieve the first proposal mentioned in the blog would be to implement standard garbage bags that charge trash collection fee, like what is done in Taiwan. A more complete system of recycling items buy-back from the government should also be put into place to provide more incentives to recycle.

    Thirdly, the recycled items should be reused. In the case of food waste, they could be processed into food for pigs. Moreover, recycled paper can be made into reprocessed paper, while recycled plastics can be used as building materials. Through reduction, recycle, and reuse of waste, there can be a cleaner and waste-free environment for Hong Kong.

    Name: Lien Huai Jen
    UID: 2012549498

  9. Chu Yik Ting, Leo (3035067681)

    Thank you for your post. As mentioned in your post, landfills in Hong Kong is going to be saturated and long-time waste treatment is still not under practice, prompt action has to be taken. However, I concur with your viewpoint that, the proposed disposal charge may have many loopholes.

    Apart from that the second and third proposals are unfair, I think the first proposal, charging according to the volume of waste would not be fair enough as well. It is because there are many low-income households which can barely make ends meet in their living, disposal charge for them would be unaffordable. Then why would everyone pay for the same amount for a certain volume of waste? It may seem to be “equal”, but it isn’t “fair”. It is suggested that, like the progressive tax which is currently under practice in Hong Kong, the poor people should be granted allowance to not pay or pay less for the charge.

    There are still many concerns about levying on disposal waste, extensive public consultation and researches are needed.

    Reference:
    http://orientaldaily.on.cc/cnt/news/20101023/00176_043.html

  10. LAU Wing Tung (3035062007)

    I would like to appreciate Ka Yi for bringing up the issues concerning the household waste disposal in Hong Kong. With no doubt that there are cumulative increasing amount of waste produced everyday which greatly put on the limited landfills, therefore I believe that reducing waste from the source is of overriding importance to protect the environment.

    I go along with Ka Yi that the second and third proposal proposed by the government is undesirable and impractical in a sense that it cannot accurately compute the exact amount of waste produced by each individual or party, and as a result will pose unfairness. In terms of fairness, it is undeniable that the first proposal is more preferable as the unit will be charged with reference to their waste produced at a particular time.

    Moreover, it is also necessary to promote the importance to reduce waste during the manufacturing process, for instance packaging. A research conducted by the EPD in 2007 showed that 38 tonnes of packaging materials are disposed every day, in which it alerts us the necessity of the having too much unwanted packages and the possibility of having these kind of materials recycled to minimize the waste.

    Reference:
    Recovery and Recycling of Expanded Polystyrene Products in Hong Kong (2007), Environmental Protection Department, retrieved from http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/waste/guide_ref/files/wr_eps.pdf

  11. CHEUNG KA PO (3035048178)

    In Fact, the household rubbish disposal charge is being practiced in other developed cities such as New York, Japan and Taiwan. In Taipei, each household is required to put their rubbish into a special rubbish bag purchased from the government, then disposed to the garbage truck at a specific time. With this policy, each residential unit’s waste amount is clearly separated. Those produce more waste have to pay more by purchasing additional rubbish bags.

    However, if Hong Kong want to follow the practice of Taiwan, some problems may arise. People may dispose their household garbage to the nearby public rubbish bins or rubbish stations. In Hong Kong, there are more than 3,000 rubbish stations and 20,000 rubbish bins. It is difficult to avoid people from disposing rubbish instead of paying money for additional rubbish bag. This will incur high monitoring cost. Although the government may remove the rubbish bins to force people to bring their rubbish home, this will create inconvenience to the society.

    The successful of the household rubbish disposal charge required the change of people’s habit. It takes time for people to adapt to a new habit no matter how careful the laws and practice is decided.

    Reference
    http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/msw_consult/file/MSW_CHI_ch6.pdf

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