Greenpeace urges more regulation on packaging to help Hong Kong households cut cost ahead of waste-charging scheme

The waste-charging scheme, which is scheduled to start on August 1, will require households to pay for the rubbish they produce at a rate of 11 cents per litre.

Residents must buy designated rubbish bags, ranging in size from 3 litres to 100 litres, before disposal.

Hongkongers in waste scheme trial run slam one-size-fits-all approach to bags

In March, Greenpeace collected the waste generated by 45 Hong Kong households ranging in size from one to five people.

Across the seven-day study, the group found that waste generated from takeaway amounted to 20.8 per cent of surveyed household’s total waste, while other forms of packaging accounted for 28.4 per cent.

Other waste – including food waste, tissue and hygiene products – made up the remaining 50 per cent.

Using the proposed charges, the group found that an average two-person household would spend about HK$40 (US$5) on the designated garbage bags per month, of which HK$21 would be solely for takeaway and other packaging.

Greenpeace’s Tam said that while restaurants would have to switch to non-plastic alternatives to tableware later this month, this did not address the “root problem” as the alternatives were still single-use items that would end up in the city’s landfills.

Debate heats up on whether Hong Kong should press ahead with waste charging

Instead, the government should look into regulating the size and amount of packaging, and that stores should offer customers packaging-free options and borrow-return services to cut down on single use items, she said.

Discussions among politicians and former officials have grown increasingly tense following the April 1 roll out of a test run at 14 locations including restaurants, shopping centres, and public and private housing estates.

Some have called for the twice-delayed scheme to be scrapped altogether, while Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu has reiterated that the government is taking a wait-and-see approach based on the results of the trial.

But the response from participants has been lukewarm, with the take-up rate at one location as low as 20 per cent over the past week. Some also complained about the poor design of bags and the lack of recycling facilities in the community.

Speaking at the Legislative Council on Thursday, Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan conceded that the pilot project had increased the workloads of cleaners and raised the operating costs of restaurants and businesses.

He added that his team would conduct an opinion survey later into the pilot scheme, and that the Environmental Protection Department would be carrying out inspections to address any problems participants were facing.

Hong Kong trial run for waste-charging scheme has take-up rate as low as 20%

But Greenpeace said that despite the complications, the government should still press ahead with the waste-charging scheme as planned in August.

Tam pointed to the successful implementation of similar schemes that were implemented in Seoul and Taipei, calling such policies the “first step” towards greater overall waste reduction.

The disposal rate of household garbage fell by 65 per cent in Taipei in the decade following the implementation of its own waste charging scheme in 2000, according to the Environment Bureau’s Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources released in 2013.

Seoul’s per capita waste disposal also dropped by 40 per cent from its waste-charging implementation in 1995.

“In Hong Kong, we are actually really behind other cities,” Tam said.

“Waste charging actually is the engine for reducing waste at the source, because it can raise our awareness,” she said. “It is a very important step in waste reduction policy.”


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