File Ref. : G4/47C(98)
PANEL ON ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS
WASTE REDUCTION FRAMEWORK PLAN
At the meeting of the Executive Council on 29 September 1998, the Council ADVISED and the Chief Executive ORDERED that the Waste Reduction Framework Plan (WRFP) should be adopted as the policy framework for waste reduction.
BACKGROUND AND ARGUMENT
2. Hong Kong is running out of space to dispose of ever increasing amounts of waste. When the statutory Waste Disposal Plan was drawn up in 1989, it focused on the priority of collection, transportation and disposal of waste in an environmentally acceptable manner, including the construction of three strategic landfills. These landfills were originally expected to last until 2020. However, more waste than forecast was produced in the past decade, as a result of growth in population and economic activities. The current assessment is that all the present landfills will be full by 2015, and that it will be very difficult to identify suitable new landfill sites. The existing sites cover 270 hectares of land. Another 860 hectares may be needed up to 2045 if present practices continue.
3. Existing waste collection and transportation is divided among the Urban Services Department, Regional Services Department and the private sector. The waste transfer and disposal system is provided through design, build and operate contracts which are publicly funded. Each tonne of waste placed in a landfill costs the taxpayer $110. Since waste disposal is seen as "free" by waste producers, there is little incentive to reduce waste. Moreover, recycling industries do not have the opportunity to develop by offering a cheaper alternative to disposal, as is usual in other places. Directly, or through the Provisional Municipal Councils, public funding of $1.75 billion per annum is being used to handle and dispose of domestic waste. Since the costs are not clearly identified to ratepayers or to the Councils, there is little pressure for efficiency in services. Reform of the current institutional arrangements and operational practices could save resources and help promote waste reduction.
WASTE REDUCTION FRAMEWORK PLAN
4. The objectives of the WRFP are:
- to extend the useful life of our strategic landfills;
- to minimise the amount of waste produced that requires disposal;
- to increase the waste recycling rate;
- to promote education and awareness in the community of the true costs of waste management so that we can review how these costs are met;
- to encourage maximum efficiency in waste management operations and minimise the costs associated with the collection, treatment and disposal of wastes; and
- to help conserve the earth's non-renewable resources.
The WRFP can be found at Annex.
5. The WRFP
- is a Framework Plan rather than an Operational Plan1 .
- is consistent with Government's competition policy, and promotes private sector involvement and the use of market forces.
- emphasises the importance of Government setting a good example.
- indicates the possibility of exploring the use of tax and fiscal measures within the framework of existing tax/fiscal policies to encourage waste reduction activities.
- emphasises the importance of proper management of construction and demolition (C&D) material.
- stresses that action is required by all sectors of the community.
- places much importance on education and publicity, and raising the awareness of the community.
6. The target of the WRFP is that 58% of the municipal solid waste generated be diverted away from landfills by 2007 (compared with 30% in 1997). This will extend the life span of the existing landfills from 2015 to 2019. If the C&D material target of 84% is met (compared with 80% in 1997), the life of the existing landfills can be further extended by 6 months. The implementation of the WRFP will reduce the amount of waste requiring disposal in the long term and allow adequate time for new landfill sites to be identified.
7. A Waste Reduction Committee will monitor and guide progress. Major reviews are proposed in year 4 and year 8 of the WRFP to enable detailed evaluation to be done and, if necessary, to redirect and refocus efforts.
A RELATED ISSUE - REVIEW OF DISTRICT ORGANISATIONS
8. The Review of District Organisations has prompted a more fundamental assessment of the institutional arrangements affecting waste reduction than had been envisaged when the draft Waste Reduction Plan (WRP) was published in May 1997. The Review provides opportunities for a redistribution of waste management functions whereby the waste collection, transportation and disposal arrangements can be reorganised to
FINANCIAL AND STAFFING IMPLICATIONS
- meet the public expectation for improved operational standards:
- extend commercially oriented approaches; and
- reduce hidden subsidies that undermine efficiency and undermine the economic basis for avoidance of waste or reuse of materials.
9. There will be substantial resources implications (capital and recurrent) with the full implementation of the WRFP. The estimated resource implications are at Chapter 10 of the WRFP. These estimates are based on a wide range of source information adjusted to reflect conditions in Hong Kong, and can only be regarded as indications of probable costs. More accurate cost estimates for individual projects will be available only when we have worked out the implementation details and completed the necessary engineering feasibility studies. It should also be noted that the estimates do not include the savings in expenditure and offsetting revenue that are achievable if suitable institutional changes are put in place. Government resources needed for the implementation of the future WRFP will need to be considered in the context of future years' Resource Allocation Exercises.
10. The current approach to waste management is inefficient, wastes resources, subsidises waste producers and hides the true costs from the community. The approach proposed in the WRFP favours a much greater use of market instruments (such as user charges) to influence the adoption of efficient management and good environmental practices. With greater use of the "polluter pays" and "user pays" principles, waste producers will seek to control their costs by managing the waste they produce. If properly applied, these market instruments should lead to greater efficiency in waste management, cost reductions due to a reduction in the amount of waste produced and less unnecessary exploitation of natural resources. They will also help make waste recycling more economically viable.
11. The WRFP's principal aim is to reduce the amount of waste disposed of at our landfills. The various measures designed to achieve this should reduce the exploitation of natural resources, increase re-use of recyclable materials, and cut down on the greenhouse gases and leachate produced at the landfills. The implementation of the WRFP would be a key step towards environmentally sustainable development in Hong Kong.
12. Extensive public consultation was conducted in two stages. The first stage took place in 1996, when the Environmental Protection Department sought the views of 51 organisations and interest groups on the consultants' recommendations. The second stage took place in 1997 when 105 organisations and individuals made comments or submissions upon publication of the draft WRP. The views expressed during the consultations were generally supportive of the proposals.
13. We will launch the WRFP on 5 November 1998 with a press conference and accompanying press release. We will also brief the Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs on 6 November 1998.
14. To publicise and promote the WRFP, a major publicity campaign will be launched on 5 November. The publicity campaign will promote and highlight the main themes of the WRFP to encourage public participation in waste reduction activities.
Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
1.Given that the WRFP has a 10-year life, it is not possible to include the operational details. Instead, it contains the guiding principles, the policy directions, and the tools we will use. The WRFP will be complemented by a "resource document" which sets out in more detail the essential elements and the detailed programme. The resource document will be distributed to green groups and others actively involved in the WRFP, and will be updated regularly.