FoE (HK)'s Response on the Bills Committee’s Decision to Discontinue Scrutiny of the Municipal Solid Waste Charging Scheme Bill
The Bills Committee on Waste Disposal (Charging for Municipal Solid Waste) (Amendment) Bill 2018 has suspended its scrutiny work on June 22nd. Friends of the Earth (HK) (FoE (HK)) is disappointed that the bill has failed to pass in this legislative session. The rate of waste disposal in Hong Kong has continued to rise in recent years. Data from EPD shows that the total volume of waste disposed in landfills was 5.87 million tonnes in 2018. The average municipal solid waste disposed daily is 11,428 tonnes, a 6.5% increase from 2017, showing that past government measures on waste reduction has been ineffective.
The Hong Kong Government has mentioned the ‘polluter pays’ principle as early as 2005 in "A Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste (2005-2014)”, which aims to reduce waste through financial incentives. The Government later issued "Hong Kong: Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022” in 2013, targeting to reduce waste volume by 40% by 2022. Waste charging has been discussed for more than 15 years and has received wide support from the society in recent years. It is unfortunate that the Bills Committee has decided to suspend scrutiny work.
Although the bill failed to pass before the end of the current legislative session, it does not mean it is over. The Government should use the remaining term to prepare for the next term. They should re-examine and optimize details of the bill, actively improve waste reduction measures and recycling facilities, and put in more resources in publicity and outreach to deepen the public’s understanding of the scheme.
Hong Kong generates over 11,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste daily, relying on the waste charging scheme alone is insufficient. FoE (HK) hopes that the Government will adopt our recommendations and take a multipronged approach to reduce waste at source, improve recycling in communities, and establish a circular economy:
1) Funding the development of the recycling industry
The Government should build and strengthen recycling facilities, including the expansion of the plastic recycling pilot scheme from three districts to all 18 districts in Hong Kong to collect plastics for cleaning and sorting. The scheme would not only cultivate a habit for proper recycling, it would also reduce the operating cost for the recycling industry. In the longer term, the Government should set policies and use economic incentives to the assist the recycling industry in upgrading itself and promote the local reuse of recycled materials and the circular economy.
2) Accelerate the promotion of producer responsibility schemes
The Government should accelerate the promotion of producer responsibility and expand the coverage to include plastic bottles and other packaging materials. This would truly reflect the environmental costs in the cost of products and promote waste reduction at source.
3) Eliminate disposable tableware
Plastic pollution poses a serious threat to ecosystems and our health. Governments around the world are now seriously addressing the plastic problem. The Hong Kong Government too should set a timetable to ban the use of disposable plastic products, in order to protect the oceans, marine ecosystems, and public health.
4) Mandatory food waste separation and recycling
Hong Kong generates around 3,500 tonnes of food waste daily, accounting for a-third of municipal solid waste. Most of our food waste is currently disposed in landfills with low recovery rates. The Government’s long-term strategy should set a landfill ban and establish a territory-wide food waste recycling system and network for local recycling.