Motion on “Waste Disposal (Charging for Municipal Solid Waste) (Amendment) Bill 2018” (2021.08.25)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): President, after 15 years of study and discussion, the legislation on waste charging is finally submitted to the Legislative Council for voting today. Some say that the present legislation will bring about changes in customs and the lifestyle practices of the public. When watching Japanese television dramas, we sometimes see the Japanese people spending much time on handling domestic waste and waste separation. The way of handling is extremely complicated as different kinds of waste will be collected on separate days. Though the arrangement in Hong Kong will be much simpler, the public still need to get used to spending time on handling waste in addition to paying waste charges. Yet, I believe the people of Hong Kong will support this for the sake of environmental protection.

When the legislation comes into effect in the future, a three-member household will be required to pay a monthly charge of about $30 to $50 which aims at encouraging the public to reduce, separate and recycle waste. Any illegal depositing of waste will be subject to a fixed penalty of $1,500, while repeated or serious violations will be liable to heavier penalties. A monthly charge of a few dozen dollars is not a significant amount. However, since the whole world is now fighting the pandemic, many sectors in Hong Kong are facing a difficult time and it is not known when the global pandemic will subside, the passage of the scheme may arouse discontent in society. Nevertheless, the Government is also caught in a dilemma. As the current term of the Legislative Council will expire at the end of October, the Bill will lapse if it cannot be passed. Even if a piece of new legislation is to be enacted in the future, all the procedures have to be gone through once more and no one knows how long it will drag on.

To facilitate the smooth passage of the Bill, the Government has shown enormous flexibility. The Government has decided that a preparatory period of 18 months will be put in place after the passage of the Bill for the public and the Government to adapt to the new arrangement. Thereafter, it can decide on the commencement date having regard to the economic situation. The Government has also made it clear that if the economy remains unsatisfactory 18 months later, the preparatory period can be extended, and that it has planned to distribute free garbage bags to the public during the early stage of implementation of the scheme while the commencement date will be decided later. In addition, the Legislative Council will be consulted before the commencement date is fixed. In doing so, the Government actually wants to tell us that the scheme will only be formally implemented when the pandemic has subsided and the economy has recovered.

This shows that there is flexibility in its governance by having the Legislative Council passed the Bill first. Evidently, as long as the Government is willing to be flexible, many problems can be resolved properly. I hope that the Government will adopt this pragmatic attitude and communicate more with the Legislative Council in the future.

President, I am the chairman of the owners’ committee of a mid-scale housing estate on Hong Kong Island. Having been taking part in building management matters for many years, I am well aware of the importance of waste disposal and know that changing residents’ habits in handling waste is no easy task. In fact, the Government’s medium-term goal is to gradually reduce the solid waste disposal rate by 40% to 45%. However, according to overseas experience, the rate can only be reduced by 15% to 25% during the early stage of implementation. Therefore, to achieve waste reduction targets, apart from imposing charges, it is more important to change the public’s habits. A break with old customs and habits requires a multi-pronged approach, especially good civic education, to enable the public to understand that everyone in society shares a responsibility. Japan is indeed a good example. It has succeeded in reducing waste at source and implementing the most stringent waste separation arrangement because the Japanese people are self-disciplined enough to do so and consider it a civic responsibility. This is the success of civic education in Japan.

It is actually impossible to achieve the goal of waste reduction by imposing charges alone. In the final analysis, civic education and environmental awareness are the most crucial factors. The Government should start from these areas. Despite the Government’s publicity efforts, such efforts often failed to yield satisfactory results in recent years, probably due to its outdated approach. This time, as waste charging is a matter of great importance, the Government must do the relevant work properly. Now that the Government has 18 months for planning, it is hoped that the Government can come up with some relatively effective publicity strategies. I suggest that the Government should invite KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) to produce online promotion videos. However, instead of setting out a lot of rules and criteria, the Government should give them a free hand, for I believe this will be more effective. Moreover, civic education has to start from school education after all. It is hoped that more civic education can be taught through the revamped subject of Citizenship and Social Development to foster students’ civic-mindedness in a positive way. Thank you, President.

Scroll to Top