Hong Kong lawmakers have passed a long-delayed legislation to charge residents for their household rubbish to reduce the amount of waste produced in the city.
While we don’t know exactly when the scheme will launch, Environment Minister Wong Kam-sing has said that it will be around 18 months before residents have to start paying for government-made bags to get rid of their trash.
What is the Waste Charging Scheme?
Under the scheme, residents that use government rubbish collection services must buy rubbish bags produced and sold by the government. These bags will be available in 11 sizes and prices. A 15-litre bag – about the same size as what supermarkets offer for groceries – will cost HK$1.70. It has been estimated that the charging scheme will cost an average three-person household between HK$33 and HK$51 a month.
The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) will give out the designated rubbish bags for free when the programme begins, but some environmental groups have said that the 18-month period is too long and that residents may expect to get the bags for free beyond it, defeating the point of the scheme in the first place.
The EPD has also promised to open 10 recycling sites across the city and expand an existing scheme for collecting plastic to cover nine districts, up from three currently.
Once the 18-month period is over, lawmakers will carry out a review before the scheme will be formally put into law.
While this waste charge is great news, there’s so much more that needs to be done to stop the flow of waste in Hong Kong. The city needs to target supermarket packaging and single-use plastic tableware, which are large sources of plastic waste in Hong Kong. The city also needs a set of policies on the proper recycling of sorted waste and food waste, without which everything will end up in landfills.
Hong Kong is an extremely wasteful city. In 2019, each Hongkonger sent an average of 1.47kg of rubbish to the landfill per day. Only 29% of this was recycled; the rest was sent to landfills. These figures are expected to rise for 2020 because of the increased use of disposables during the height of COVID-19.
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See also: 8 Ways to Reduce Food Waste