LCQ1: Public consultation on MSW charging and waste recycling

     Following is a question by the Hon Vincent Fang and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (March 21):


     The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is conducting public consultation on the charging for municipal solid waste (MSW charging) and the consultation document cited the experience of some cities (including Taipei City, Seoul, western peripheral cities of Metropolitan Tokyo, Singapore, Beijing and Guangzhou, etc.) where MSW charging has been implemented.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the means of treating or disposing MSW, such as recovery, incineration and disposal at landfills, etc., adopted by the aforesaid cities where MSW charging has been implemented, and the respective percentages of the quantities of MSW treated by the various means; the changes in the MSW recovery rates before and after the implementation of MSW charging in the various cities; and the uses of the charges collected;

(b) whether it knows if the governments of the aforesaid cities have given direct or indirect support and assistance to waste recovery or treatment, including introducing supportive measures in terms of taxation, technology, land or funding, etc.; if so, the relevant measures; and the number and nature of waste treatment facilities established with government support;

(c) whether, at the present stage, the Government has any plan to extend the scope of the existing three-coloured waste separation bin ("three-coloured bin") scheme to recover waste materials in addition to paper, plastics and aluminium cans; if it has, of the plan; if not, the reasons for that;

(d) of the changes and the rates of increase/decrease in the quantity of plastic waste recovered through the three-coloured bins provided by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department after the implementation of the environmental levy scheme on plastic shopping bags;

(e) whether the Environment Bureau (ENB) or EPD follows up on where the waste recovered through three-coloured bins will be processed; whether it knows if there is any enterprise engaged in the recycling of plastic waste in Hong Kong at present; if there are such enterprises, the quantity of plastic waste recycled by them; if there is not any, the reasons for that; and

(f) of the number of directorate officers in ENB and EPD who have undergone professional training relating to environmental protection and have relevant working experience, as well as the percentage of them in the total number of directorate officers in ENB and EPD; given that the number of environmental protection measures implemented by the Government is increasing, whether the relevant policy bureaux or their executive arms have any plan to recruit more staff to take charge of the relevant measures; if so, of the recruitment criteria?



     Hong Kong is facing an imminent waste problem.  In response, the Government has drawn up a multi-pronged strategy which includes amongst other things the engagement of the public in deliberations on possible options of municipal solid waste (MSW) charging to create economic incentives to encourage waste reduction at source.  To this end, the Government published a consultation document on January 10, 2012, outlining the relevant international experience in waste charging and presenting the issues to be considered in implementing charging in Hong Kong, for instance adjustments that might be required in the existing waste collection services and how our people have to change their waste disposal habit.  Our response to the question is as follows -

(a) and (b) MSW is treated through different means in Taipei City, Seoul, Tokyo and Singapore, and the respective percentages of these treatment methods are tabulated below (we do not have relevant information for Beijing and Guangzhou) -
             Recycling   Incineration   Landfills or
                                        other methods
Taipei City     58%           42%            0%
Seoul           68%           19%           13%
Tokyo           23%           74%            3%
Singapore       48%           51%            1%

     According to the information that we have collected, amongst the six cities, Taipei City, Seoul and Tokyo have implemented domestic waste charging through different charging mechanisms for waste reduction purposes.  The latest waste recovery rate of these cities is 58% (as at 2010), 68% (as at 2009) and 23% (as at 2009) respectively.  Taipei City implemented quantity-based waste charging in 2000 through a designated garbage bag requirement, and their recovery rate at that time was 5%.  Seoul implemented similar measures in 1995 and their recovery rate at that time was 29%.  Nevertheless the recovery rate of both cities increased significantly after waste charging was implemented.

     As we have presented in the consultation document, Singapore implemented a fixed waste charge so as to defray the contract costs for outsourcing waste collection services on a regional basis.  Taipei City and Seoul implemented a quantity-based waste charge for waste reduction purposes.  As far as we understand, the income from the waste charge could not fully meet the expenditures required for waste management.  We do not have the relevant information for Beijing and Guangzhou.

     The six cities mentioned above practise different policies in respect of waste management and waste recycling; the level of participation and assistance provided by their respective governments also vary from one to another.  The number of their waste treatment facilities breakdown by facility types is set out below -

             Incinerators   Landfills   Food waste
                                        treatment or
Taipei City        3            1            1
Seoul              4            1            6
Tokyo             21            1            0
Singapore          4            1            0
Beijing            1           12            1
Guangzhou          1            2            0

(c) At present, a wider range of recyclables are accepted at our 3-colour recycling bins, from previously paper, plastic bottles and aluminium cans only to now waste paper, metal (including aluminium cans) and plastics (including plastic bottles).  There are graphical and written illustrations on the recycling bins to show the types of materials that are accepted.  With the Government's encouragement and assistance, relevant trades have also launched various recycling programmes covering recyclables such as used clothes, waste electrical and electronic equipment, compact fluorescent lamps and fluorescent tubes, rechargeable batteries and glass bottles, etc.  We will review the coverage and types of our recycling programmes from time to time so as to enhance public participation in recovering different types of recyclables.

(d) The first phase of the Environmental Levy Scheme on Plastic Shopping Bags was implemented in July 2009 covering some 3,300 registered retail outlets.  In 2010, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) collected a total of 95.2 tonnes of waste plastics through the 3-colour recycling bins installed in public places, showing an increase of 45% when compared with 65.7 tonnes collected in 2009.

(e) According to the contractual terms, FEHD's contractors must hand over the recyclables (including plastics) collected through the 3-colour recycling bins to approved recyclers for treatment.  The recyclers will handle such recyclables together with those collected from other channels, with most of which will be exported to the Mainland or overseas for recycling.  There are enterprises operating plastic recycling businesses in Hong Kong, and approximately 4,000 tonnes of plastic materials were locally recycled in 2010.

(f) At present, there are 39 directorate posts in the Environment Bureau (ENB) and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD).  The incumbents are drawn from three grades, namely the Environmental Protection Officer (EPO), Administrative Officer and Treasury Accountant grades.  Over 70% of them belong to EPO grade and possess the professional background, forming the linchpin of our directorate staff.  Apart from environmental protection, ENB/EPD is also responsible for policies on energy and sustainable development.  For the environmental protection purview, all responsible EPO grade officers at directorate level have received training and possess working experience related to environmental protection.  We would review our manpower requirements from time to time in the light of operational needs and arrange training for our human resources.  We would conduct recruitment exercise according to established Government recruitment procedures when such a need arises.

Ends/Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:33