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10 Facts about Waste Charging

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10 Facts about Waste Charging



For your better understanding of the public consultative document, "Municipal Solid Waste Charging" released in January 2012, below we will explain to you the complicated content in simpler terms.

Content
Q1: What is Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)?
Q2: How is the waste in Hong Kong being handled now?
Q3: Who is paying for waste handling?
Q4: But if the waste collection and disposal levies have been included in the property management fee, why does the government have to charge additional fees?
Q5: What is wrong with handling all of the waste with the public's money?
Q6: What does waste reduction have to do with waste charging?
Q7: Then, what are the charging approaches mentioned in the public consultative document,"Municipal Solid Waste Charging"?
Q8: Are there any successful cases across the world of having waste reduction occur because of waste charging?
Q9: Then, what is the charging level for the quantity-basis system?
Q10: However, will waste charging pose a financial burden for the grassroots people?


Q1: What is Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)?
A: It includes the domestic solid waste in our daily lives, and industrial and commercial waste from factories, offices, restaurants or supermarkets etc. (Construction and demolition waste, as well as medical waste are not included). At present, the daily quantity of MSW being dumped in Hong Kong is 9,114 tonnes.


Q2: How is the waste in Hong Kong being handled now¡H
A: Most of the domestic waste is collected by refuse collection vehicles from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and is then compressed at the refuse transfer stations that are managed by the Environmental Protection Department. It is then transferred to the landfills. Ordinary industrial and commercial waste is collected by the cleaning contractors authorized by individual businesses and is then transferred to the refuse transfer stations or to the landfills for processing.


Q3: Who is paying for waste handling?
A:The public treasury pays for all of the collecting, transferring, processing and dumping of waste. According to statistics from the Environmental Protection Department (2005), the operating cost is about HK$1.3 billion every year which is HK$0.38 per kg. These expenses do not include the cost of the land and construction.


Q4: But if the waste collection and disposal levies have been included in the property management fee, why does the government have to charge additional fees?
A:The levies that are collected from ordinary buildings include only the collection of waste from every floor of a building and afterwards the transfer of waste to refuse collection vehicles/refuse collection points. The expenses for transferring the waste from those vehicles/points to landfills are all paid for by the public treasury which costs HK$1.3 billion annually, i.e. HK$0.38 per kg.


Q5: What is wrong with handling all of the waste through the public's money?
A: Since the cost for waste processing is paid by the tax payers, you have to shoulder the processing cost of the waste produced by supermarkets, restaurants and big shopping malls etc. In other words, when everyone has to pay, that means that no one has to be responsible for how the waste is processed. Under the situation of "dumping waste costs nothing", the quantity of waste in Hong Kong is surging upwards. In 2010, the average waste production per person in Hong Kong was as high as 2.68 kg. It not only reached its historical high, it also far exceeded the other three Asian dragons. Based on this growth, Hong Kong only has to construct a larger landfill, build more incinerators and spend more of the public¡¦s money.


Q6: What does waste reduction have to do with waste charging?
A: Waste charging was started in the hope that it would encourage people to reduce their usage of one-off disposable products and over-packaging, and that waste collection would be categorized by the public. The objective of waste charging is to put the principle of "polluter pays" into practice. Economic incentives are used to make sure that every dumped piece of waste counts. Under these circumstances, whenever the public dumps trash or even goes shopping, they will have to carefully consider what is needed, and whether it is still usable and recyclable.


Q7: Then, what are the charging approaches mentioned in the public consultative document, "Municipal Solid Waste Charging"?
A: This document presents three charging approaches. They are:

  • a. Quantity-based system: For example, it requires people to buy designated garbage bags so that charging can be determined by the quantity of the waste being dumped (collection frequency, weight and volume). Examples: Taipei City and South Korea.
  • b. Proxy system: Water consumption, for example, is a common proxy that is used to associate the waste consumption of a unit which is then included in the water bill also. Example: Dongguan city.
  • c. Fixed charge system: An identical rate is paid regardless of the quantity of waste being produced. Examples: Singapore and Guangzhou.



Q8: Are there any successful cases across the world of having waste reduction occur because of waste charging?
A:Yes. In 1995 and 2000, South Korea and Taipei City reduced 44% and 60% of their waste within five years after the implementation of the per-bag MSW charging scheme respectively.


Q9: Then, what is the charging level for the quantity-basis system?
A: There is no suggested charging level in the public consultative document, "Municipal Solid Waste Charging". However, according to the present processing cost of MSW in Hong Kong, the processing cost is about HK$0.38 per kg. The quantity of waste that is disposed daily from a four-person household is 3.48 kg. The daily charge is thus about HK$1.3. The monthly charge for a household is about HK$35 - HK$45. This charging level is comparable to that in Taipei City and South Korea.


Q10: However, will waste charging pose a financial burden for the grassroots people?
A: People don't have to worry too much. FoE believes that if the government can manage well with the food waste collection and that if the public can do well on categorizing the waste for recycling, then the charges will be far less than HK$35 or even less than HK$8. Take Taipei City as an example, where the residents had to pay HK$38 at the beginning but now the charge is largely reduced to HK$12 on average.

FoE definitely has considered the financial burden on grassroots families, and therefore, we recommend that the government should consider launching a programme called "Aid for Basic Garbage Bag Use" during at least the early stage of the policy's implementation where they will distribute a certain number of free designated garbage bags to households so as to alleviate the burden on the grassroots.



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