The bottleneck over imposing a levy on glass bottles continued in Legco on Thursday with lawmakers across the political divide and the government bickering over the details of the plan that has already been pushed back to 2019.
The scheme, originally intended to come into force this year, will involve a levy of HK$1 per litre size for all glass bottles and contractors will be employed to collect, grind and reuse the glass as a construction material.
Manufacturers will be exempt from the levy if they reuse their bottles at least five times.
Lawmakers approved the necessary legislative amendment in 2016, but a consensus on how to implement the scheme remains elusive. The government says it will submit subsidiary legislation providing the operational details by the fourth quarter.
Most lawmakers agree on one thing, the HK$1 per litre levy. And that's about all they agree on.
The DAB's Gary Chan and Chu Hoi-dick from the Land Justice League said the government should do more to encourage manufacturers to reuse their bottles instead of dumping them. Not only would that help cut down glass waste, the manufacturers would also be exempt from paying the levy, the pair argued.
The under secretary for the Environment, Tse Chin-wan, said the levy waiver should give manufacturers enough of an incentive to reuse their bottles. He also rejected criticism that it is too tough for manufacturers to achieve an 80-percent waste reduction rate and reuse each bottle at least five times to qualify for the levy exemption.
Some lawmakers were concerned about how useful it will be to grind bottles into sand for use in the construction sector. But the undersecretary said there is a huge demand for this material in the industry.
Tse's assertion failed to convinced some people, like DAB lawmaker Elizabeth Quat. She said there is no incentive for the recyclers to sell this ground glass as they could keep it in government warehouses. "It will all end up in the landfill later," she said.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong continues to throw away 90,000 tonnes of glass containers every year, according to 2016 data. The government says it is hoping to recycle 15,000 tonnes in the first year when the scheme is implemented, and treat 50,000 tonnes annually after three years.
But when all this will be achieved remains to be seen.