Home Environment Hong Kong Postpones Waste-Charging Scheme, Emphasizes Recycling and Public Awareness

Hong Kong Postpones Waste-Charging Scheme, Emphasizes Recycling and Public Awareness

Hong Kong Postpones Waste-Charging Scheme, Emphasizes Recycling and Public Awareness

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong government has indefinitely postponed its waste-charging scheme but remains committed to the polluter-pays principle, according to Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan. Speaking on a radio program yesterday, Tse outlined the administration’s revised approach, focusing on increased public awareness, an expanded recycling network, and policy improvements slated for 2025.

Tse emphasized the need to shift public focus from waste charging to waste reduction. “We need to work well in recycling first and correct the focus of the public from charging to reducing waste, and then see if the scheme can be optimized to let most people accept it,” he said. He also assured that the administration might consider phased implementation of the scheme and explore other methods to promote waste reduction.

The decision has drawn mixed reactions from various stakeholders. Mickey Yan Wai-kiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Property Services Alliance, expressed disappointment, noting that months of preparation had been in vain. Yan suggested residents discuss with their property management companies whether to return additional fees collected for the scheme or allocate them for other uses.

In contrast, Catherine Yan Sui-han, convener of the Environmental Services Contractors Alliance, supported the postponement. She highlighted the cleaning sector’s manpower challenges, which could have made the scheme’s implementation difficult for frontline workers.

Green groups have criticized the administration’s decision. Edwin Lau Che-feng, executive director of Green Earth, argued that the administration is overly focused on negative feedback, neglecting the positive responses from a recent trial run at government buildings. Lau suggested extending the six-month adaptation period instead of postponing the scheme entirely, warning that delays would hinder progress.

Angus Ho Hon-wai, executive director of Greeners Action, echoed these concerns, stating that the postponement could dampen public enthusiasm for waste reduction. He urged the administration to implement the scheme in government buildings to maintain momentum.

Yau Wing-kwong, chief executive of the Environmental Association, pointed out existing constraints in the recycling process but expressed optimism that Hongkongers would be more inclined to recycle with better and more convenient facilities.

The Environmental Protection Department responded to media inquiries, affirming the necessity of the designated waste bags. They revealed that 170 million bags, produced at a total cost of HK$74 million, are currently in stock. The department clarified that their contract with manufacturers does not mandate a fixed monthly production volume and that bag production will continue to be demand-driven.

Retailers are set to stop selling the designated bags, with arrangements made for the return of unsold stock. Tse denied allegations that the free distribution of bags was merely to use up existing stock, insisting it was part of a promotional effort.

As the administration navigates this complex issue, it faces the challenge of balancing public opinion, operational feasibility, and environmental responsibility. The next steps will be closely watched by all stakeholders as Hong Kong seeks effective solutions to its waste management challenges.