Municipal Solid Waste Charging

In line with the "polluter-pays" principle, charges are based on the quantity of waste generated, so that people become more aware that waste disposal comes at a cost. Quantity-based waste charging aims to create financial incentives to drive behavioural changes in waste generation and hence reduce overall waste disposal. With reference to the experiences of other major cities, municipal solid waste (MSW) charging is an effective tool to achieve waste reduction. In connection with the implementation of MSW charging in Hong Kong, the Waste Disposal (Charging For Municipal Solid Waste) (Amendment) Bill 2018 was introduced to the Legislative Council for scrutiny on 14 November 2018.

Need for MSW Charging

In 2017, the daily disposal of MSW at landfills has reached 1.45 kg/person. This is higher than those of other major cities and brings about huge burden to landfills. To combat global climate change, it is imperative to promote resources saving as well as waste reduction and recycling in order to reduce carbon emissions and facilitate a transformation to low-carbon living. MSW charging is the centre of our overall waste reduction strategy. It provides the necessary financial incentives to drive behavioural and cultural changes, and to encourage different sectors of the community to cherish resources and proactively practise waste reduction at source as well as clean recycling, thus reducing overall waste disposal.

Two charging modes

Built upon the existing MSW collection and disposal system, MSW charges are proposed to be levied through the following two modes:

Charging by designated garbage bags/designated labels

For MSW collected by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) through refuse collection vehicles, refuse collection points (RCPs) and bin sites, as well as MSW collected by private waste collectors (PWCs) using refuse collection vehicles with rear compactors (RCVs), charging will be imposed through requiring the use of pre-paid designated garbage bags. The MSW will have to be properly wrapped in the designated garbage bags before disposal. The per-litre charge for designated garbage bags is proposed to be set at $0.11 for the first three years of implementation. The designated garbage bags will be of nine different sizes from 3-litre up to 100-litre to cater for the need of different users.

Charging for oversized waste collected by the FEHD that cannot be wrapped into a designated garbage bag will be imposed through requiring the oversized waste to be affixed with a designated label before disposal. A uniform rate of $11 per piece will be charged.

Designated garbage bags and designated labels could be purchased at over 4000 sales points (e.g. supermarkets, convenience stores, post offices, personal care products stores, gas stations, etc.), supplemented by some vending machines.

Charging by weight-based “gate-fee”

For MSW collected by PWCs using waste collection vehicles without compactors, a “gate-fee” will be charged based on the weight of MSW disposed of at the waste disposal facilities, i.e. landfills or refuse transfer stations (RTSs).

Publicity and education

As revealed in the experiences of other cities, public education, publicity and engagement hold the key to the successful implementation of MSW charging. Our campaign efforts will be guided by three principles:

  1. a sustainable and extensive public education campaign targeted at the general public and specific groups (such as students and youngsters) under the theme of “Dump Less, Save More”;
  2. provision of first-hand experience of how MSW charging is implemented through the successive launches of setting-specific community engagement projects as well as close partnership and collaboration with government departments and stakeholder groups such as the Environmental Campaign Committee (ECC), DCs and village representatives, green groups and schools in launching activities; and
  3. provision of direct, on-site and in-person assistance through outreaching efforts.

Enhanced support for waste reduction and recycling

It has been announced in the 2018 Policy Address that the Government will provide additional recurrent resources to enhance waste reduction and recycling, with an additional provision of around $300-400 million for the financial year (FY) 2019-20 to start with, which would be further increased to no less than $800-1,000 million from the FY when MSW charging is to be implemented. The amount of this annual provision would be commensurate with the estimated gross revenue to be generated from MSW charging in the initial period so as to achieve the effect of “dedicated-fund-for-dedicated-use”.

The additional resources can be used to fund various waste reduction and recycling initiatives, including (a) the setting up of outreaching teams under Environment Protection Department (EPD) to provide on-site assistance to the community, thereby putting waste reduction and recycling and MSW charging into practice; (b) regularisation of funding support for Community Recycling Centres (CRCs); (c) provision of free territory-wide collection service in respect of waste plastics from non-commercial and industrial sources and food waste from all sources in the longer run subject to the experiences gained from the pilot schemes and the progress of developing food waste recovery centres in Hong Kong; and (d) implementation of a pilot scheme to assess the effectiveness of applying reverse vending machines (RVMs) in promoting the recycling of plastic beverage containers.

Enforcement

A six months’ phasing-in period will be put in place after the commencement of MSW charging. During this period, warnings will be issued to non-compliant cases and enforcement actions would be taken in case the nature and magnitude of the offence calls for enforcement. After the phasing-in period, strict enforcement actions will be taken on a risk-based approach, with particular attention given to black spots. Fixed penalty tickets at $1,500 each will be issued to offenders intercepted on the spots, and prosecution by way of summons will also be taken against serious and repeated offenders. The frontline staff of FEHD and PWCs will reject any waste that have not been properly wrapped in designated garbage bags or affixed with designated labels. A dedicated hotline would be set up by EPD to answer enquiries and to accept complaints and reports on non-compliance.

For details, please visit https://www.mswcharging.gov.hk
Last review date: March 2019
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