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Adjustment to provision of litter containers and recycling bins in public places
     The Environment Bureau announced today (February 10) that the Government will adjust the number of litter containers (LCs) and recycling bins (RBs) in public places in preparing for the implementation of municipal solid waste (MSW) charging.
     At the meeting of the Steering Group on the Modification of Recycling and Refuse Collection Facilities in Public Places held yesterday, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) put forward a proposed adjustment plan to reduce the number of LCs by 40 per cent to 24 300 by the time when MSW charging is planned to take effect in 2019. The current RB to LC ratio of 1:14 will be enhanced to 1:6 and the number of RBs in public places will be increased by 45 per cent to 4 000. The two departments will conduct reviews thereafter with a view to further adjusting the number of LCs and RBs in public places, taking into account the situation on the ground, public reaction and other operational considerations.
     The adjustment plan was drawn up having regard to a set of general planning parameters recommended by a consultancy study commissioned by the Steering Group earlier. Among other things, the consultant recommended that at least three LCs and one RB shall be provided in various leisure and culture facilities and venues managed by the LCSD, and three RBs for large outdoor venues such as beaches. In urban areas, the basic provision of LCs should be reduced such that two LCs would be set at around 150 metres apart, and an LC would be found at each pedestrian gathering point in rural areas. The basic provision of RBs in urban areas and new towns should be increased such that two RBs would be set at around 250 metres apart and an RB would be placed at every village-type refuse collection point. Adjustments would be made to take into account the nature and circumstances of individual areas and settings, e.g. more LCs and RBs would be provided at key tourist spots with higher pedestrian flow while the provision of RBs near existing recycling outlets provided by other entities (e.g. shopping malls) would be reduced.
     In Hong Kong, the Government has been promoting recycling at home and the workplace through the Programme on Source Separation of Waste (SSW), which already covers 80 per cent of the population. While recyclables collected from the RBs in public places contribute to a minor fraction of the total recyclables collected, the Steering Group agreed that their provision should be adjusted as appropriate to provide enhanced recycling support for pedestrians and the population currently not served by the SSW programme. Given that the primary function of LCs is to collect litter from pedestrians, there is room to reduce their provision.
     The Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, said, "In other places, the implementation of quantity-based waste charging was often accompanied by a reduction in the provision of LCs to avoid abuse to evade charges, as well as an adjustment of the RB to LC ratio to enhance support for resource recovery. The proposed plan sets out the broad directions for adjusting the provisions of LCs and RBs to complement the implementation of MSW charging, bearing in mind the need to maintain environmental hygiene. It should also be emphasised that the provisions on site would have to be considered by the relevant departments with regard to the actual situation and operational factors."
     As recommended by the consultant, LCs and RBs would be placed at strategic locations (e.g. entrances and exits of venues and crossroads) to provide the public with greater certainty on their placement, thereby encouraging their use. The relevant departments would also consider placing specific RBs dedicated to the reception of specific types of recyclables at suitable locations. For example, specific RBs for recyclable plastic bottles and aluminium cans would be placed outside sports facilities and at beaches. Further guidelines will be drawn up on their placement.
     The Steering Group agreed that the adjustment plan should be implemented in phases and reviews be conducted from time to time to make necessary adjustments having regard to public feedback and reaction.
     The current design of RBs in Hong Kong's public places has separate compartments for collecting waste plastics, metal and papers, while mixed RBs are placed at selected public places and main streets in some other cities. The Steering Group agreed that RBs with one single compartment to collect different types of recyclables should be used for trial runs in Hong Kong. Such mixed bins can effectively reduce the demand for space for their placement in public places, and provide clear indication and suitable convenience to the public for disposing of recyclables. Members considered that in implementing the change, an effective educational campaign should be mounted to promote a clean recycling culture in order to mitigate the problem of potential contamination of waste paper inside the mixed bins. The Steering Group also agreed that a trial run on the provision of mixed bins should be conducted to ensure its smooth implementation before implementing the proposal in certain public places.
     Following the completion of review of the provision of LCs and RBs in public places, the Steering Group will further commission a consultancy study to recommend new designs for LCs and RBs in public places. Public engagement will be conducted during the study, which is expected to be completed in the latter half of 2017.
Ends/Friday, February 10, 2017
Issued at HKT 19:11
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