Thursday, 12 January 2012

Enough Crap

Hong Kong people generate a lot of crap.

In a 2009 survey, Hong Kong was the most wasteful of 30 economies.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Hong Kong produced more than twice the garbage per person per year (921kg) as the Japanese (410kg) and South Koreans (380kg).

So now the Hong Kong government is trying to find ways to get people to throw out less -- by charging them according to how much rubbish they produce.

The Environment Bureau is now consulting the public for three months to see if people are willing to pay for their garbage to be removed.

This comes five years after a rubbish fee that should have been introduced had a waste management framework mapped out by the previous environment secretary been acted on.

Just goes to show how much in denial this administration is when it comes to tackling issues that need to be addressed urgently.

In any event, environmentalists have already criticized the proposal as the government has not suggested how much the levy would be and the waste reduction target, saying it prevents the public from making informed decisions.

But Secretary for Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said: "We should reach a consensus on whether to impose a levy on waste disposal before discussing [what the levy would be]."

So the media hit the streets for a reaction to the proposal and most agreed there should be a levy, which shows Yau is completely behind the ball in having a grasp of what the public is thinking. They just want to know how much and how it would be implemented.

There are suggestions of a proxy system linking waste charge to water bills, as it assumes the more water that's used will generate more garbage. However that doesn't work for say laundry shops which use copious amounts of water, but has little trash.

A fixed charge isn't much of an incentive for people to reduce their garbage either, but it can be enforced by forcing people to buy government-issued garbage bags that will be collected.

But Friends of the Earth's Edwin Lau Che-feng doesn't think this is productive, saying, "It is meaningless to present an option that does not encourage waste reduction."

What's interesting to note is that 52 percent of garbage generated was recycled, up from 43 percent in 2005.

However, Lau added total municipal waste rose during the same period, from 2.42kg per person per day to 2.69kg.

He said it was disappointing that Yau still had not executed a waste management plan mapped out by his predecessor Sarah Liao Sau-tung.

Green Power chief executive Man Chi-sum said, "The policy has dragged on for years. Now it will be [carried over to] the next administration."

The government really needs to resolve this issue of waste management now. Our landfills are just about filled to the brim and no one wants an incinerator near them.

So the next best thing is to make a serious effort to cut the amount of garbage we produce.

This means the government should subsidize recycling systems and more importantly households must be educated on how to separate garbage and collectors should know how to dispose of things properly.

It will seem tedious in the beginning, but after several months people at all levels will get the hang of it and then wonder why they didn't do this for years.

The next step would be composting, but let's get this waste reduction initiative rolling as soon as possible.

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