Hong Kong’s leader asks environment chief to devise ‘sharper, clearer’ strategies to ensure public awareness of waste-charging scheme

Hong Kong’s leader asks environment chief to devise ‘sharper, clearer’ strategies to ensure public awareness of waste-charging scheme

Hong Kong’s leader has asked the environment minister to devise “sharper and clearer” promotional strategies to ensure public awareness of a new waste-charging scheme aimed at reducing the amount of rubbish tossed into landfills.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Tuesday said large-scale, continuous and repeated efforts were needed to promote and educate residents about the scheme.

“I have asked the secretary for environment and ecology to ensure the action plan [for the waste-charging scheme] has its details worked out and clearly explained to all relevant parties,” said Lee, referring to property management companies, the catering industry and residents, before his weekly meeting with the Executive Council, the city’s key decision-making body.

“All this information needs to be clearly explained, spelled out and easily available for everybody. So [the Environment and Ecology Bureau] will work harder on holding seminars, doing press conferences, explaining whenever they can with different stakeholders and also work out good [questions and answers] so that people can easily understand what their roles will be, their legal responsibilities and how things will work out.”

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Chief Executive John Lee says large-scale, continuous and repeated efforts are needed to educate residents about the scheme. Photo: Eugene Lee

From April 1, residents will be charged for the waste they dispose of as part of the government’s municipal solid waste-charging campaign.

Residents will be required to collect their rubbish in prepaid bags that will cost 11 HK cents per litre for the first three years of the policy. Bags will be available in nine different sizes from three litres (0.79) up to 100 litres.

The scheme was originally set to be implemented by the end of last year, but authorities delayed it to April, saying more time was needed to work out the logistics.

Property management firms have expressed concerns about the enforcement and operation of the scheme. Lee said he had heard many questions from different industries and residents about the scheme.

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Lee said promotional material needed to be simple for residents, adding that authorities would also use social media in their efforts to inform the public.

But the chief executive did not respond to questions on exactly how many press conferences and guides were needed to ensure residents were well-informed about the policy and also did not answer a query on whether he believed that the scheme would be implemented on time.

Environment minister Tse Chin-wan later on the same day pledged to step up promotional efforts for the scheme, saying it would bring Hong Kong in line with other cities that imposed similar levies that led to many benefits.

“In the end, what the residents need to do will be very simple,” he said. “We have been using plastic bags for the garbage. What we need to do is to replace your usual plastic bag with a designated bag.”

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He said the potential impact on finances would not be severe as an average household would spend less than HK$2 on the charged according to official estimates.

“What the chief executive has said very clearly is that we need to do more and talk more,” he said after promoting the government’s waste reduction initiatives at a local primary school.

“Our colleagues will brief reporters on Friday on the details of our approach. On my blog, I will also be writing more to clarify misunderstandings [about the scheme].”

Acknowledging that the government’s practical guidelines “could be a long read”, he said authorities would convey key points to the public through TV commercials, concise blog passages and social media infographics.

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