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Govt considers waste levy
By Kahon Chan
Published: Jan 11 2012 9:29
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The government proposed four options aimed at cutting the city's solid waste by applying disposal charges.

The options are given little elaboration in the document. One option would be to apply a levy to waste disposal based on the quantity disposed. The consultation paper released on Tuesday does not provide examples of rates or details of how such a plan would be executed.

Secretary for the Environment Yau Tang-wah said there will be room to negotiate a price tag for waste disposal, but he hoped the public will simply concentrate on whether the city is able to copy the success in other places.

The government said it does not favor any one option over another, but the consultation document emphasized revenue-generation should not be the objective of any program.

The document took note of Singapore's fixed charge system and a proxy system that associates levies for waste with water usage. Both systems are principally aimed at cost recovery rather than waste reduction.

The fourth option would be to levy a partial charge, applying to commercial and industrial wastes only. But with 11,000 mixed-use buildings in Hong Kong, the document said it could be difficult to screen out commercial wastes at these places.

Considerable attention was paid to elaborating the quantity-based approach adopted by Taipei and Seoul. This "disposer pays" is regarded as the most effective means of affecting waste reduction since the charges are proportional to the quantity of waste.

Albert Lam Kai-chung, deputy director of environmental protection, said Taipei has cut daily disposal of domestic waste by over 60 percent to 0.41 kg per day per person - less than half of what Hong Kong produced, 0.87 kg per head every day in 2010.

But effectiveness comes at the cost of requirng major behavioral changes in the population. Not only are the people of Taipei required to buy designated bags that cost about HK$0.12 per liter, they also are required to drop their packaged garbage at a specific time every day. Most street-side bins have been removed to ensure people pay as they throw.

Enforcement is also an issue. Both Taipei and Seoul depend on neighbours and building management to police each other, but that may infringe privacy and damage relationships, the document says.

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