The municipal solid waste charging scheme was first proposed in 2005. In March 2017, the Environment Bureau said the scheme could take effect in the second half of 2019.
When the bill was finally passed by the Legislative Council in August 2021, environment minister Wong Kam-sing agreed to legislators’ requests for an 18-month preparatory period, during which the authorities would produce designated garbage bags, educate the public, communicate with stakeholders and strengthen recycling support in the community. One would have expected the waste charging scheme to be implemented 18 months later, in February this year.
In January this year, Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan told the media the authorities were confident of rolling out the scheme by year end, even though a tendering exercise for producing designated garbage bags was cancelled in November last year.
When a second tender closed in May, the authorities said contracts would be awarded in July or August. But it remained questionable whether the chosen contractor could, in just four months, produce enough garbage bags and have them delivered to all sales points.
Then on July 7, the Environmental Services Contractors Alliance said sanitation workers would not be able to cope with the waste charging scheme if it was launched at year end.
Consequently the Environment Bureau informed the Legislative Council on July 10 that it will postpone the start date for waste charging until next April. However, the bureau cannot even tell us when the designated bags will be ready for use.
Back in 2014, following public engagement on waste charging, the Council for Sustainable Development concluded: “The key outcome and consensus of this public engagement process is that the public believes there is a need to take forward [municipal solid waste] charging”.
The Environment Bureau missed a golden opportunity then to seek Legco approval of the scheme, when community support for waste charging was strong.
The current administration is result-oriented. So the bureau must ensure practical means are put in place and public awareness is built before next April, to achieve meaningful waste reduction in Hong Kong.
An SCMP article contributed by Mr Edwin Lau,
Founder & Executive Director of The Green Earth