Implementation arrangements for municipal solid waste charging
Hong Kong (HKSAR) - The Environment Bureau (ENB) announced today (March 20) the proposed implementation arrangements for municipal solid waste (MSW) charging. The ENB will introduce the bill on MSW charging into the Legislative Council in the first half of 2017. After the passage of the legislation, a preparatory period of 12 to 18 months will be put in place to allow the public and stakeholders to prepare for the implementation of charging. It is expected that MSW charging will be implemented in the second half of 2019 at the earliest.
The Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, said, "In the past 30 years, MSW in Hong Kong increased by over 80 per cent, far outpacing the population growth of 34 per cent in the same period. In 2015, the daily per capita MSW disposal rate was 1.39 kilograms, which was much higher than that of our neighbouring cities. Quantity-based waste charging aims to create financial incentives to drive behavioural changes in waste generation and thus reduce overall waste disposal. It can help to achieve our waste disposal reduction target of 40 per cent by 2022 as set out in the Hong Kong: Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022."
The Council for Sustainable Development (SDC) conducted an extensive public engagement exercise on MSW charging and recommended to the Government an implementation framework in 2014. Based on the framework, the Government has been developing the implementation arrangements of different aspects in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
On equity grounds and in line with the "polluter pays" principle, MSW charging will be implemented in all sectors in one go.
Based on the existing MSW collection and disposal system, two charging modes will be adopted, namely "charging by designated garbage bags" and "charging by weight". "Charging by designated garbage bags" will apply to premises currently using the waste collection service provided by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), which include most residential buildings, street-level shops and institutional premises. Waste should be properly wrapped in designated garbage bags before disposal. "Oversized" waste that cannot be properly wrapped in the largest size of designated garbage bags of 100 litres should bear an oversized waste label before disposal.
Designated garbage bags will have nine different volumes ranging from 3 litres to 100 litres. The proposed per-litre charge for designated garbage bags will be set at $0.11.
At this price level, if a three-member household uses a 15-litre designated garbage bag for daily disposal of MSW, it will have to pay $1.7 per day. If a smaller volume of 10-litre designated garbage bag is used, it will have to pay $1.1 instead. The price level compares well with Taipei City and Seoul and is within the recommended level put forward by the SDC.
The price of oversized waste labels will be set at a uniform rate of $11 each.
"Charging by weight" will apply to premises and buildings which hire private waste collectors to dispose of waste directly at landfills or refuse transfer stations (RTSs), and charging will be based on the weight of waste disposed of at these facilities. Under this charging mode, MSW disposed of at the RTSs and landfills will be charged at $365 per tonne. To balance the usage distribution of different waste disposal facilities, MSW disposed of at the four urban RTSs and Northwest New Territories Transfer Station will be charged at a higher price at $395 per tonne.
Some residential buildings using the waste collection service provided by the FEHD's waste collection fleet may require more time for residents to reach a consensus on the implementation arrangements for using designated garbage bags. A transitional period of three years will be in place for these residential buildings to pay for the waste charges on the basis of the number of waste collection bins collected by FEHD's waste collection fleet, and charges will be apportioned among all households. Premiums of 30 per cent, 40 per cent and 60 per cent will be imposed on top of the proposed charge for designated garbage bags in the first, second and third year of implementation respectively for the per-bin charge.
Mr Wong said, "In setting the charging level, the Government has considered different factors including the effectiveness of waste reduction, public acceptability and affordability. To allow time for the public to adapt to the new charges and for the necessary behavioural changes to take place, the price levels will remain the same for the first three years of implementation, except for 'charging by bin'."
On enforcement, frontline staff of the FEHD will reject MSW not properly wrapped in designated garbage bags or not affixed with oversized waste labels.
Enforcement staff will conduct spot checks at refuse collection vehicles and refuse collection points. Fixed penalty notices at $1,500 each will be issued to offenders intercepted on the spot, and prosecution by way of summons will also be taken. Enforcement action will be further taken at the waste reception chambers or other parts of buildings used for waste collection.
Mr Wong added, "Experiences in other cities show that public education holds the key to the successful implementation of MSW charging. To prepare different sectors of the community for the implementation of MSW charging, we will widely publicise the theme of 'Dump Less, Save More' to the public and different stakeholders through organising briefings, workshops and other promotional activities. We will also strengthen our collaboration with different stakeholders in organising the related publicity and education activities, including the continuation of the community involvement projects funded by the Environment and Conservation Fund, and development of the best practice guides for different sectors."
To complement the implementation of MSW charging, the Government will enhance its support for recycling. More recycling bins will be provided for buildings under the Source Separation of Waste Programme as necessary to facilitate the recycling of the three major types of recyclables namely paper, plastics and metal. The Steering Group on the Modification of Recycling and Refuse Collection Facilities in Public Places (the Steering Group), chaired by the Secretary for the Environment, has earlier conducted a review on the distribution of recycling bins (RB) and litter containers (LC) in public places. Based on the recommendations by the Steering Group, the Government will enhance the RB to LC ratio from the current 1:14 to 1:6 by the time when MSW charging is planned to take effect in 2019.
The Government will launch two Producer Responsibility Schemes (PRSs) on waste electrical and electronic equipment and glass beverage containers by 2017-18, and will commission a feasibility study on how to implement a PRS targeted at suitable plastic bottles. The Government will also continue to develop the Community Green Stations network and strengthen recycling support for low-value recyclables at the district level.
It will step up its efforts in promoting clean recycling at source, and consider ways to strengthen its on-site support to property management companies and residents through outreaching services.
Drawing on the successful experience of the Environmental Levy Scheme on Plastic Shopping Bags, Mr Wong is confident that MSW charging can further drive behavioural change in waste generation, thus reducing the overall waste disposal. He noted that successful implementation of MSW charging would entail many details to be arranged and involve different stakeholders, and he appealed for the concerted efforts of the community in building a "use less, waste less" culture.
Published on: 2017-03-20
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