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HK waste-charging trial run draws mixed reactions from netizens

HK waste-charging trial run draws mixed reactions from netizens

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The upcoming trial run of the waste-charging scheme has sparked concerns among Hong Kong lawmakers and netizens, who are concerned about whether businesses and residents are prepared for the change. 

The municipal solid waste (MSW) charging scheme, which was supposed to commence on 1 April 2024, has been postponed to 1 August 2024 due to concerns and heated discussions in the society. However, the government would perform a trial run of the scheme on 1 April. 

The Environment and Ecology Bureau submitted a document to the Legislative Council last Friday (22 March 2024), stating that 14 locations in Hong Kong will implement the "demonstration scheme” (先行先試) for waste charging on 1 April. These locations include the West Kowloon government offices, two public housing estates, three private residential buildings, two malls, two residential care homes, and four restaurants.

However, during a panel discussion on environmental affairs yesterday (25 March 2024), several legislative and district councillors expressed their concerns and put forward suggestions.

Lawmaker Lo Wai Kwok said citizens are required to “forcefully place recyclable materials into designated bags” under the insufficient recycling infrastructure, which goes against the original intention of implementing waste charging to achieve waste reduction. He asked if the government could postpone the implementation of waste charging until the completion and operation of the incinerator next year.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Edward Leung said there should be several years of preparatory period before implementing waste charging. However, due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, it would be extremely challenging for the government to proceed with the implementation of waste charging on 1 August 2024. It is likely to be understood and supported by the public if there is a need for postponement, he added. 

Speaking of social sentiments, media intelligence firm CARMA saw over 500 media mentions surrounding the upcoming trial run of the waste charging scheme, with 20% negative sentiment and 7.1% positive sentiment.

The negative sentiments mainly originated from netizens who raised questions about the selection criteria for the 14 premises chosen for the "demonstration scheme”, said CARMA's HK general manager Charles Cheung. 

“Some expressed empathy for the residents of these premises, as the trial run seemed to be implemented at the last minute, leaving little time for adequate preparation,” Cheung added. 

Concerns were also raised by netizens who feared that the new system could potentially lead to increased environmental issues, such as a rise in littering and illegal dumping, if the necessary infrastructure for proper waste disposal is not effectively established, according to Cheung. 

In response to councillors’ concerns, Tse Chin Wan, secretary for environment and ecology, said the government had internal discussions on the scale of the demonstration scheme and ultimately selected 14 locations to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by participants. Each trial site has a dedicated team to follow up on the implementation. 

Tse added that the data collected from the demonstration scheme will include participation rates, changes in waste generation, and recycling volumes. He will report the results to the panel on environmental affairs in May or June. Tse said he will not consider postponing the waste charging scheme before the demonstration scheme has even begun.

Meanwhile, Cheuk Wing Hing, deputy chief secretary for administration, will lead an interdepartmental task force to oversee the demonstration scheme and review the results before deciding on the next steps.

The rollout of the municipal solid waste charging, which was supposed to be established on 1 April 2024, had been postponed again until August amidst public controversies, Tse said on 19 January 2024. 

Join us this coming 26 June for Content360 Hong Kong, a one-day-two-streams extravaganza under the theme of "Content that captivates". Get together with our fellow marketers to learn about AI in content creation, integration of content with commerce and cross-border targeting, and find the recipe for success within the content marketing world!

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