Reduce Waste at Source, No Garbage Charging!
The Government proposal to charge solid waste household by household and bag by bag is impracticable. There are high-rise buildings almost everywhere in Hong Kong and most Hongkongers are so busy that they will not have time to process garbage in the way suggested by the Government. So much the more, how can the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department enter private buildings for law enforcement? Should this proposal be implemented, residential mansions will probably have to commission large management companies like Link REIT to deal with their garbage, and this will be a good chance for such companies to reap exorbitant profits (cf. Kay Lam 2017).
Solid waste charging will not bother the rich at all, while it will add to the already heavy burden of the grass-root people. Moreover, the Government’s monopoly of the garbage bags runs against the principle of free market economy. And collection of garbage household by household will give the Government the opportunity to peep into the private life of individual citizens, e.g., how many condoms do you use everyday, what kind of medication are you taking. In addition, extensively reducing the number of trash bins from public places, as suggested by the Government, will probably turn Hong Kong into a trash city.
A permanent solution is reduction of waste at source and of consumption of unnecessary goods. Another one is compulsory categorization and recycling of solid waste plus motivated recycling of bottles and cans. For example, in every supermarket in Finland, there is a can and bottle recycling machine. Put in a bottle or a can, the machine will issue a coupon of the supermarket in return （LINK）. Plastic bottles and lunch-boxes collected should be processed with some high technology. For instance, Lee Ka-ming, a Hongkonger, has invented a method to transform styrofoam into plastic beads, plastic wires, etc. (LINK) (Every year 31,000 metric tons of plastic bottles are sent to landfill sites.)
In addition, I suggest that manufacturers and distributors refrain from over-packaging their goods; that heave taxes be imposed to combat non-eco-friendly plastic containers; that investments be made in bio-degradable containers. For example, in 2014, an Indonesian soical enterprise invented OXIUM® (a natural additive to plastic that ensures rapid degradation) and ECOPLAS® (a biodegradable plastic polymer made from tapioca).
“Be benevolent to the people and loving to nature” (Menicius). The Hong Kong Government is supposed to respect Hongkongers, reduce waste at source, genuinely protect our environment, and withdraw the solid waste charging plan, which will be a nuisance to the people of the Hong Kong, if implemented.
Note: The above is an English translation of Chapman Chen’s speech delivered at the Special meeting of Panel on Environmental Affairs receiving public views on the proposed implementation arrangements for municipal solid waste charging on 29th May, 2017.
The original Chinese text is available at https://www.localpresshk.com/2017/05/reduce-waste-at-source/.