Meeting notes: Legco Environmental Affairs Panel 22 April 2013
Meeting in Conference Room 1 of the Legislative Council Complex
Living Lamma started four years ago in response to dumping on agricultural land.
When we failed to achieve any action to address this problem, we conducted a survey into what is causing the severe deterioration in our living environment.
All of the problems with rubbish, dumping and waste that we have encountered since are common all over Hong Kong. And we are finding it immensely difficult to resolve them.
We have found that the way in which waste is perceived, collected and processed is a fundamental cause of our environmental decline. We have been trying to do something about this, with numerous reports, site visits & endless correspondence with various government departments, and positive actions such as cleanups and glass recycling.
Glass is a small part of the overall problem, but it is an important one.
Experience overseas shows an evolution in the provision of waste services to the point where recycling is now making money and certainly changes in behaviour are noted. Other places realize that the cost of environmental clean up far outweighs the cost of providing services and have made it easy for people to recycle.
In Hong Kong, it remains very difficult to achieve even the smallest of common sense changes largely because of bureaucratic constraints and the disconnect between departments when it comes to responsibility for waste. We have many examples of this and I would be happy to share these when time allows or you may find them in our reports.
In 1995, a Lamma residents’ group led by a professional town planner put forward a detailed and highly achievable plan for a waste management system based on principles of reduction and recycling – including the provision for glass recycling.
18 years later and we have finally got our first glass recycling bins, but as you will see from our submission, this took a monumental effort to achieve. Why, in a city that prides itself on its speed and efficiency should this be the case?
There are understandable frustrations with the PRS. What happened to the income from the 45% tax on wine and beer that was abolished just a few years ago? Why was that not used to fund recycling? Why has Hong Kong been paying to deposit glass into landfill for all this time (and paying to import sand and pavers)? Why should the producer pay for the consumer’s choice? Why was no apparent thought given to the generation and disposal of glass waste in the promotion of Hong Kong as Asia’s wine hub or who indeed was going to pay for this?
However, if we are to make progress we have to look positively to the future and we have to find some way to change thinking and overcome the legacy of a laissez-faire system that served Hong Kong so well in the past.
Everyone in society must take responsibility for the waste they produce and we need to inspire changes in attitudes from every sector of society, including government, to achieve this.
Lamma is a great place to showcase how things could be, as our experience with glass recycling showed, with members of society regardless of age, race or social standing working together, not for any financial incentive, but because we want to clean up our environment and improve our waste facilities. We also have the opportunity to create a world-class centre to inspire transformational change in making sustainability meaningful to people’s lives. We would be happy to discuss these opportunities with the panel further.
I heard the PRS termed the “Passing Responsibility Scheme.” Buck-passing has been has been one of the main frustrations in our efforts to clean up our environment. This has got to stop. We need to connect government, people and businesses with the waste they produce and find the means – perhaps at a district level – to introduce a fair charging system that provides the right penalties and incentives to encourage change.