Friends of the earth
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Widespread waste charges are essential

Edwin Lau Che-feng, director-general affairs, Friends of the Earth (HK)
South China Morning Post


Nowadays, it seems that all political parties oppose the landfill extension proposals, not just for Tseung Kwan O, but for the other districts.


The government seems stuck, partly through its own weakness, and it now faces strong opposition on environmental and other issues in society. However, discussions were more rational when former environment secretary Sarah Liao Sau-tung presented the 10-year Waste Reduction Framework Plan in 2005, where landfill extensions and incineration were included.


It received considerable acceptance from various stakeholders, as it was comprehensive, holistic approach to waste management that put the emphasis on policies that were likely to boost waste avoidance, coupled with the necessary end-of-pipe measures.


As a green group, Friends of the Earth (HK) understands the need for waste avoidance policies and waste treatment facilities to achieve holistic waste management.


But the government must act swiftly and do more in the area of waste avoidance instead of giving high-profile support for landfill extensions and incineration.


I visited Taipei City recently on a study trip focusing on waste management. There are many good practices that our government should learn from.


Taipei introduced legislation on waste charging by volume in 2000, and its government has subsidised waste recycling so that residential estates and commercial buildings can collect over 10 different types of recyclables. These subsidies are needed for recyclables with a low market value. The city authorities also employed workers to look after recycling facilities at housing estates every evening for three hours, to teach residents to dispose of various types of recyclables in collection bins.


To effectively tackle the big growth in waste in Hong Kong, the top priority should be waste charging for the whole society. Landfills are inevitable but in order to lengthen their lifespan and avoid future extensions, they should not accept waste that has not gone through certain treatment processes. If the waste is recyclable, it should be banned from landfills.


Only with these policies can we solve our critical waste problem.

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