Published: 18:12, January 19, 2024 | Updated: 12:51, January 20, 2024
Hong Kong delays citywide waste charging until Aug 1
By William Xu in Hong Kong

Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan speaks to the media at the Central Government Offices on Jan 19, 2024. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government announced on Friday it would delay citywide implementation of the Municipal Solid Waste Charging Scheme until Aug 1, following public outcry and confusion over how the scheme will work. However, the scheme will still apply to government departments and buildings from April, as scheduled.

Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan said the delay is intended to give the community more time to prepare for the scheme’s implementation, and the government own pilot scheme will set an example for the community to follow.

At a news conference on Friday afternoon, the environment chief said the waste charging scheme is a vital move for Hong Kong to close the gap with many other metropolises around the world in terms of garbage management and waste reduction.

However, Tse stressed that for the scheme to be implemented successfully and smoothly, it is important that the public fully understands it and will actively participate in it.

After discussions with Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, the government made the decision to defer the scheme’s effective start date until Aug 1, he said.

Students participate in educational activities on municipal solid waste and refuse charging to understand waste reduction at source and recycling at Yaumatei Kaifong Association School in Hong Kong on Jan 16, 2024. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)

He added the government will seek consultation with the Legislative Council’s Panel on Environmental Affairs on Monday and start revising the scheme’s effective start date as soon as possible.

The government’s follow-up publicity of the scheme as well as the sale of designated bags will continue as scheduled, Tse said.

The policy will still apply to government departments and buildings from April 1. Tse said he hopes the government’s pilot participation will set a good example, and will help the public to better understand the waste charging scheme’s operation and details. This approach will also help government officials to streamline procedures before the citywide implementation in August.

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This is the second time that the introduction of the charging scheme has been delayed, with many residents and various sectors having expressed concerns about the scheme and confusion over its implementation in the past few months.

Students participate in educational activities on municipal solid waste and refuse charging to understand waste reduction at source and recycling at Yaumatei Kaifong Association School in Hong Kong on Jan 16, 2024. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)

Under the scheme, Hong Kong residents are required to use prepaid designated garbage bags to dispose of most of the trash from residential, commercial and industrial premises. The bags come in nine different sizes, from 3 liters to 100 liters, costing between HK$0.3 ($0.04) to HK$11.

For large items that won’t fit into designated bags, such as furniture, each item must be affixed with a designated label before its disposal. Labels are priced at HK$11 each.

Additionally, waste collected by private collectors using refuse collection vehicles without rear compactors will be charged by weight.

A milestone in the city’s waste management, the Municipal Solid Waste Charging Scheme was approved by the Legislative Council on Aug 26, 2021. After approval, the SAR government launched a preparatory period of 18 months, enabling various sectors of the community to get prepared before its full implementation — originally scheduled for late 2023.

This undated photo shows members of the Environmental Protection Department's Green Outreach team introducing the municipal solid waste charging modes to residents. (PHOTO / HKSAR GOVERNMENT)

However, the first delay was announced in July of 2023, when the government decided to postpone the date of implementation until Apr 1, 2024.

Earlier this week, Lee, the chief excutive, urged residents, property management companies, the catering industry and other stakeholders to understand their respective roles and legal responsibilities under the charging scheme.

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Lee instructed relevant authorities to ramp up publicity of the scheme, and said he hopes the details of the scheme will be explained to the public in a “short, sharp and clear” manner.