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Public consultation on waste charge necessary

Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 12:00am


Philip Bowring says it is “nonsense” to consult the public on waste charging (“Land policy on shaky ground [1]“, August 11).

He sees consulting the public as either a lack of confidence on the part of government or lack of an effective plan to sell waste charging to the public and legislators.

Let me set this straight. The last administration consulted the public in early 2012 on whether the principle of waste charging was acceptable to the public.

Over 60 per cent of respondents accepted waste charging as a concept.

This administration has already announced that it is our policy to charge for municipal solid waste and our aim is to start charging by 2016, as we will need to pass legislation before we can impose a charge.

We have to work out the details of how to put together a waste charging scheme that works for Hong Kong, where 80 per cent of the people live in high-rise buildings.

We also plan to charge commercial and industrial companies for their municipal solid waste.

The Council for Sustainable Development will launch the public consultation process very soon based on how charging could be designed for Hong Kong.

It is critical for successful implementation to have public acceptance of a territory-wide charging scheme.

This is why we need to consult before finalising the scheme, after which we can draft the necessary legislation and put it to the legislature.

Legislators will also benefit from the result of the consultation as to how the public sees waste charging.

We have studied the various types of charging schemes overseas. What is clear is success comes from getting the details right, sustaining public communication so people understand how it works (many questions will arise along the way), and pitching the charge at a level that can garner the widest support.

If Bowring were responsible for implementing a waste-charging scheme, I suspect he would not say it is “nonsense” to consult on the details of the scheme.

Christine Loh, undersecretary for the environment


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