April 23, 2024

Hong Kong property management firms concerned over handling waste-charging scheme breaches, 90% have yet to reach agreement with clients, regulatory body says

Property management firms in Hong Kong have expressed concerns over how to deal with potential breaches of a waste-charging scheme set to be implemented in three months, as more than 90 per cent have not reached an agreement with their clients on addressing such issues, according to the industry’s regulatory body.

The Property Management Services Authority on Tuesday urged the Environmental Protection Department to step up education and awareness efforts and also offer a six-month transition period for the scheme.

Under the waste-charging scheme, which will take effect on April 1, residents will be required to buy government-approved plastic bags, available in nine sizes, at a cost of 11 HK cents (1.4 US cents) a litre.

A government-designated bag for waste disposal. The waste-charging policy will take effect on April 1. Photo: Sun Yeung

Alan Siu Yu-bun, chief executive officer of the property management authority, on Tuesday said many companies were concerned about how to best handle potential breaches of the scheme and the extra costs they would incur.

The regulatory body earlier surveyed 178 companies that serve more than 5,800 residential estates, businesses, industrial buildings, hotels, shopping centres and wet markets, on the progress of their preparation efforts ahead of the roll-out.

But only five to 11 per cent of the respondents said they had reached a consensus with their clients on the implementation details of the scheme, such as how to collect waste and handle potential breaches. The rest said they were still in the preparatory stage.

He added that public awareness was also a key factor, as it required the active participation of homeowners to sort out the details.

Hong Kong’s waste charging scheme has loopholes, cleaning industry warns

James Wong Kong-tin, chairman of the authority, on Tuesday said the sector’s slow response was understandable given the unprecedented nature of the scheme, which involved a lot of stakeholders.

“But, we, as a statutory regulatory body, will try our best to work with the Environmental Protection Department to implement the policy smoothly on April 1, although time is very tight,” he told a radio programme.

Wong called on environmental authorities to step up promotion and education efforts on the responsibilities of residents and property owners.

The government should also offer training and a code of practice to frontline workers as only 6 to 7 per cent of the polled companies said they had provided such services, he added.

Hong Kong’s long-awaited plan to charge residents for waste delayed to next year

Wong said authorities should provide details on the arrangements for purchasing the designated bags as soon as possible, and consider making them free for the first six months of the policy to help the public adapt to the changes.

Wilson Yip Hing-kwok, chairman of the Amoy Gardens Owners Joint Committee, said the group would implement a three-month transition period to help residents adapt to the new policy.

“For the first three months, the property management company will buy 15 bags each with a capacity of 15 litres for each household every month, with the cost included in the management fee,” he said, adding that the committee would also step up promotion efforts, including providing information on food waste recycling.

“After that, they would need to buy the bags on their own from convenience stores and supermarkets.”

How a new charging scheme can trash Hong Kong’s massive waste problem

In 2014, the residential estate in Kowloon Bay took part in a pilot scheme for municipal solid waste charging, with more than 1,000 households participating.

Yip said a third of the participants did not use the government-designated bags, especially when some rubbish was already wrapped in plastic bags, such as takeaway boxes.

He said he expected at least one-fifth of the residents would violate the charging scheme after its launch in April, but he stressed that the property management company would not cover the extra cost to handle such breaches.

“The cost would need to be split among homeowners. The cleaning workers will also keep an eye out to see which floors had more cases, so we can speak to those residents one by one,” he said.

The government earlier delayed the implementation of the scheme from end of last year to April 1 after the environment bureau said more time was needed to work out the logistics as waste collectors had raised concerns over an expected surge in rubbish during the winter holidays.

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