25 Mar 2014

Hong Kong: Waste-Disposal Charge Ineffective Alone, Educating the Public Brings Result

Christina Lam writes:*

Garbage is a significant issue that influences environment. After garbage trucks pick up and drive away with the garbage that we produce, most of us feel that our garbage is gone and has somehow disappeared. Often, people have no idea about how garbage can affect the environment.

In my hometown Hong Kong, garbage has become an issue. Hong Kong is a tiny city with more than 7 million people. Can you imagine there are only three landfills and some of them are close to residents? As garbage decomposition takes many years, especially non-recyclable garbage, the Hong Kong government is prompted to act to reduce the volume of household garbage.

Hong Kong government was planning on charging families for waste disposal in an attempt to reduce the volume of household garbage. Although Taipei and Seoul have implemented this policy, I do not feel that it will work for Hong Kong. As Hong Kong has a wide wealth disparity, this policy does not solve the problem effectively. The cost of waste disposal may cost too much for the poor, but the rich may feel nothing at all.

There is no real solution to the problem of garbage. In my opinion, one way to reduce the quantity of garbage in Hong Kong is to provide a good education on garbage classification. Countries like Canada and Japan are particularly successful with this type of education. Although Hong Kong has implemented garbage classification, people are not attentive enough nor care to actually sort their garbage. By educating the people in Hong Kong, they would have a better understanding on the advantages of sorting their garbage and recyclables. Moreover, the Hong Kong government can encourage countries to use recycled products, such as providing subsidies. These recommendations in addition to the fees can boost garbage reduction as imposing garbage charge alone is not effective enough for a substantial change.

Bottom Line: Charging garbage fee alone is ineffective in substantially reducing garbage in Hong Kong, but education and encourage policies are tools in to help encourage the reduction of garbage in Hong Kong.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.