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Sep 02, 2023

Although implementation is still months away, the Hong Kong government has been hard-selling its Municipal Solid Waste Charging Ordinance.

While it won’t take effect until April 1, 2024, a public education campaign about the waste reduction scheme is well under way, with TV ads and billboards touting its “polluter pays” principle.

In short, the idea to convince people to “dump less, save more” is to force everyone to use only designated garbage bags to dispose of their rubbish.

Presumably, if we have to line our bins with only their prepaid bags – which will come in several sizes and supposedly cost 11 Hong Kong cents (1.5 US cents) each for the smallest ones – then we will all try to recycle more and toss less waste.

It all sounds good, but I can already imagine some problems when reality comes into play. I hate to say this, but Hong Kong people are not among the world’s most conscientious citizens. There are many who will look for any way to get around government measures for selfish convenience.

I’ve had clerks who force a plastic bag on me even after I’ve declined it. “Your ice cream is going to make everything else wet. Take it!”

Another rule that was supposed to make our city more green came in 2014 with the ban on vehicles idling their engines and polluting roadside air. I’m not sure that legislation has stuck.

Cars and trucks in Central, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay are still coughing hot, noxious fumes while the driver stays cool in his air-conditioned cabin. I see officers walk by them and nothing is done – not even a warning is given.

With the Solid Waste Charging scheme, the problems I foresee include people who will avoid buying the approved green bags by stuffing their trash in public bins on the street. A lot of people do this already. Come next April even more rubbish will be laid on the streets this way.

Worse, it is a reality that many inconsiderate high-rise residents just throw their garbage piece by piece out the window. It’s not uncommon for estate podiums to be covered with used tissues, drink boxes, chicken bones and, of course, cigarette butts.

This is how some first-floor awnings end up on fire because a smouldering cigarette end lands on top. These residents can expect more raining garbage next year.

Also, don’t be surprised if people start inundating construction and demolition skips with their smelly domestic litter.

In the New Territories, even more rubbish is likely to end up in undeveloped lots and beside village back roads. It’s only logical, as many of these spots are already strewn with garbage and there’s not even a charging scheme yet.

Personally, I kind of resent being forced to buy garbage bags because I try to repurpose all the plastic sacks and carriers I’m already burdened with for this use.

This includes the ones from fruit vendors, bread bags, juice cartons, and even those large rice bags. Now I will have to get rid of them as refuse rather than as a waste container.

I think even the implementation of the green bags will be difficult. At buildings, the bins tend to be communal, often by the floor. Who’s going to make sure every flat uses the approved green bags? Or will it be left to the dustman?

What I do know is, this is going to be a dirty job and no one will want to do it.