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ENB announces modifications to implementation of municipal solid waste charging
     The Environment Bureau today (October 26) announced that the proposed implementation arrangements for municipal solid waste (MSW) charging will be modified to expand the use of pre-paid designated garbage bags, and to remove the transitional arrangement of bin counting.

     The Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, said that following the announcement of the proposed implementation arrangements for MSW charging in March this year, more than 60 engagement sessions including two public forums have been held to solicit views and comments from different stakeholders and the general public. The community generally finds the proposed arrangements agreeable, while some suggestions have been made by various stakeholders on how the implementation arrangements could be further improved.

     "Over the past few months, we have been looking into the feasibility of modifying certain aspects to the proposed arrangements, which would on one hand help us respond to the comments received while enabling the charging regime to achieve the polluter-pays principle to a greater extent on the other," Mr Wong said.

     Under the revised proposed arrangements, the use of pre-paid designated garbage bags as the charging tool will be expanded to cover not only waste producers who are using the waste collection service provided by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), but also most residential and commercial/industrial buildings whose MSW is collected by private waste collectors (PWCs) using refuse collection vehicles (RCVs) with rear compactors.

     For non-compactor type RCVs used by some PWCs, as they would sometimes be used to collect MSW that is bulky in size or irregular in shape (e.g. mattresses, sofas, large-sized metalware and wood panels) and hence cannot be properly enclosed in designated garbage bags, the MSW they collect should continue to be subject to a gate fee.

     Under the revised arrangements, about 80 per cent of MSW collected daily would be charged for through the purchase of pre-paid designated garbage bags, while the remaining 20 per cent of MSW would be subject to the gate-fee requirement. The Government will work closely with the property management sector and other stakeholders to help them publicise the waste charging arrangements to their clients. 

     The transitional arrangement of bin counting, i.e. charging on a per building basis based on the number of waste bins collected by the FEHD, is also proposed to be removed as feedback from different stakeholders has suggested that it is unlikely to be opted for by residents and may unnecessarily complicate the charging arrangements.

     To underline the Government's commitment to implementing MSW charging, it is planned that a Municipal Solid Waste Reduction Office under the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) would be set up after the passage of the Amendment Bill. The new office, which would subsume all relevant resources in the EPD on MSW charging, would be responsible for taking forward the preparation, implementation, enforcement and review of MSW charging in conjunction with other departments. The office would work with different stakeholders to prepare the community for the implementation of the charging scheme.

     Mr Wong stressed that the Government is keenly aware of the need to provide adequate resources to beef up the support for recycling to complement the introduction of MSW charging. A waste reduction and recycling promotional campaign under the central theme "Dump Less, Save More", with the first phase focusing on clean recycling and proper source separation of waste, will be launched. The EPD will set up an outreach team to reach out to the 18 districts to provide on-site guidance and assistance to residents and property management companies in implementing MSW charging and practising clean recycling. To facilitate recycling, a new service to centrally collect waste plastics bottles will also be introduced. To strengthen its work on food waste recycling, the EPD will establish a dedicated Food Waste Recycling Group to study and formulate new regulatory measures on food waste disposal such as mandatory source separation of food waste starting from the commercial and industrial sectors, and administer the Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign.

     In addition, the Government proposes to provide a subsidy of $10 per person per month for all recipients of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme upon the commencement of the implementation of MSW charging to avoid it creating an unnecessary burden to those with financial hardship.

     "It remains our target to introduce the Amendment Bill into the Legislative Council by the end of 2017. Assuming that scrutiny of the Bill would take one year, MSW charging could be implemented towards the end of 2019 at the earliest. We do not underestimate the challenges that we will face in implementing the scheme on a territory-wide basis. As behavioural changes take time, we expect that there would be some confusion and non-compliance at the initial stage, but we hold the conviction that we have to take the first step to implement this important waste reduction tool to move towards sustainable development," Mr Wong said.
Ends/Thursday, October 26, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:33
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