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How the Waste Charging Scheme Affects You

And how you can save upwards of $200 per year.

Hong Kong's Waste Charging Scheme

From August 1 2024, the Hong Kong government will charge you based on the waste you throw away, but only that which will reach a landfill; recycling and food waste, if disposed of properly, will not count towards this charge. If you fail to follow the rules, you could face six months imprisonment.

What do I need to do?

When disposing of waste, you’ll need to ensure it goes into a special trash bag. 

Where can I buy these bags?

The new pre-paid rubbish bags will be available from supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores. 

How much are they?

Bags will come in 9 different sizes and will be charged at 11 HK cents per litre of rubbish. A standard kitchen bag of around 15 litres will cost $HK1.70. If you need to remove a body, the largest 100-litre bag will cost HK$11. 

The average waste per day from a Hong Kong home is about 1.53kgs which would fill a typical 15ltr bag, so expect to pay around HK$52 per month.

What happens if I don’t use the bags?

There is a grace period, so for the first six months, you’ll get told off. After that, you can expect a fine ranging from HK$1,500 to HK$50,000 and 6 months' imprisonment. 

Hong Kong's Waste Charging Scheme

Can I just throw my rubbish in a public bin and not use the bags? 

No. That will incur a fine of HK$3000 if caught. This would also take the tenacity of Andy Dufresne from Shawshank Redemption to rid your home of that much waste.

What if I need to throw away my bed or sofa? 

Firstly, if it's in reasonable condition, check with Nikki from DB Mothers and Friends whether they can upcycle it or gift it to the various charities they work with. There is a collection charge for the items, but it's for an excellent cause. If Nikki's team can't take it, you’ll need to buy a label and affix that to the item being disposed of. That label will cost you HK$11, regardless of the size of the item and is available from the same place you bought the bin bags.

But won’t people just throw rubbish into a communal bin in a tower block and avoid this new rubbish tax?

Yes. On the whole, people are lazy so this is going to be a nightmare.

What happens then? 

Your building's cleaners can be liable for the fines, so please use the bags and save these lovely hard-working people the hassle.  

Is this new rubbish scheme enforceable realistically in a city of 7.35 million people who mostly live in tower blocks?

… Not really. That remains to be seen. Could go either way.

Can I avoid paying more?

Yes! You can sort your rubbish into recyclable, food waste and general trash. Take the recyclables to one of the excellent Hong Kong Waste Reduction sites. You can find your nearest site here. 

When purchasing goods, choose items with less packaging or packaging that folds down neatly. Plan dinners so you waste less food and any food that is leftover can also be composted.

I'm not sure anyone will store their decaying leftovers in a high-rise apartment long enough for food composting to make sense. 

Hong Kong's Waste Charging Scheme

Does this scheme make sense?

The scheme makes sense. We all need to be more aware of our personal commitment to the environment, especially living in such a space-limited region. Sending items to landfill causes harmful waste gasses and renders that land useless for years, let alone the human time to collect and process it all.

Is this the best way to go about reducing waste on a national level?

The cost and burden of removing the waste from society shouldn’t just fall on the end user. Product designers and manufacturers should look to make better use of materials to store their products.

Supermarkets should eliminate their unnecessary use of plastics and provide better training to staff. I’ve had plastic bags forced on me when buying vegetables, even after repeatedly saying ‘um zei doi, um goi. Um leil doi, um goi’ in my finest Canto, and have to take the food out the bag before repackaging it in my own bag, only for the check-out staff to add the next piece of fruit/ vegetable into another bag. I've also seem people put veggies in two plastic bags. Vegetables are clearly dangerous in Hong Kong!

Should the government set a levy against supermarkets that fail to stock products with goods that aren’t made with recycled materials, from recycled materials, or better yet, compostable materials?

Yes, they should. Will they? Probably not as that, just like this refuse bag scheme, it is hard to track. But for the government at least, this green bag refuse scheme will bring in some much-needed revenue. 

This article is in no way criticising the Hong Kong government, merely pointing out other ways to improve the services to the millions of people it’s entrusted to protect and serve. The rubbish scheme is a great first step to reducing waste and I urge members of the public to follow the new guidelines. The Hong Kong Waste Reduction programme is excellent. There is a team outside my daughter’s school and I see daily the amount of waste they’re saving and recycling. Together we’re a stronger community, and hopefully a cleaner and greener one too. 


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