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Transcript of remarks by SEN
     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, on the implementation arrangements for municipal solid waste (MSW) charging after attending a radio programme this morning (March 21):
Reporter: Mr Wong, you are talking about how the public officers will be given more power to enforce this waste charging scheme. What kind of power are you talking about precisely?
Secretary for the Environment: Currently, the relevant officers should have the power to exercise enforcement in public places, for instance, in refuse collection depots, etc. The new proposal is that, in response to the requests raised by the concerned stakeholders, because we are going to have the "per bag" charging mechanism that would affect people's behaviour within the public spaces, say, within the (residential) estates, the new proposal is to empower the relevant officers to get into the (residential) estates' public places to work with the estate managers, etc, so that we can exercise our enforcement (power) as appropriate.
Reporter: Would these officers be allowed to go into people's rubbish bags to investigate if they find suspicious bags in the premises?
Secretary for the Environment: That issue has been talked about by the Council for Sustainable Development earlier during the public engagement. Their proposal is that, privacy is a key concern in the Hong Kong society. So it is something that we would like to avoid. But we would like to have other means to optimise our enforcement effect. To answer your question strict, we are not going to open the garbage bags to inspect, but we will see to some other means so that we can exercise the enforcement power.
Reporter: What direction are you looking at? What kind of means are you talking about?
Secretary for the Environment: Probably we would like to highlight where are the black spots and also to act upon complaints.
Reporter: Do you think the $1,500 penalty for people to use the wrong garbage bags is strong as a deterrent?
Secretary for the Environment: I think it is a good starting point. We estimate that, say, for a small family, if the garbage is equivalent to $20 to $30 per month, it will be about $300 a year. The $1,500 penalty is equivalent to the family's five years' garbage fee. It should be a sufficient deterrent for that family.
Reporter: Do you have any estimate of how many of these garbage bags will be used for the whole year in Hong Kong?
Secretary for the Environment: My colleagues did the estimate. As raised in the public call earlier, we are not going to generate more garbage plastic bags. In many cases, they are having the free plastic garbage bags provided by estate managers these days. So the new proposal is to replace those existing plastic bags. Actually, if people are going to reduce waste, then the size and also the volume of the plastic bags will be reduced over time. Certainly the key is to reduce the overall waste dumped in our landfills.
Reporter: What is the material used for making these plastic bags?
Secretary for the Environment: In brief, the design of the plastic bags will be environmental friendly. It will constitute about 50 per cent of recyclable contents, and will be degradable. We also prefer to see the recyclables to be locally available. That means those waste plastics generated locally can be used for the manufacturing of these plastic bags; even preferably, these plastic bags can be manufactured in Hong Kong. So it can reduce waste and be low-carbon. Thank you.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:21
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