Face Off: Should people be fined for not recycling in Hong Kong?

Face Off: Should people be fined for not recycling in Hong Kong?

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

Nicholas Ng, 16, South Island School

I believe such a policy would be effective. If it was implemented, it would force people to recycle or pay up. Most of the recyclable waste in Hong Kong is made up of plastic items such as bottles and cutlery. Hong Kong’s marine litter problem is quite serious. If we continue to throw things away, landfills will quickly fill up, and harmful pollutants will seriously affect public health. With a fine, you essentially target the main reason people don’t recycle – a lack of “payback” for their irresponsible actions.

The burden of encouraging people to recycle does not fall solely on the government’s shoulders – it’s everyone’s duty to help. Instead of having the government spend millions of dollars on raising awareness of the issue, recycling should become citizens’ responsibility. A fine would lead to a gradual change in their behaviour.

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What’s more, the money made from the fines could be used to improve the environment. For example, the government could launch tree-planting campaigns or provide financial help to small-scale recycling companies in the city.

I understand that there may be some concerns that the policy would harm the poor much more than the rich. However, it is important to note that recycling is not a particularly difficult task. To avoid the fine, you would simply need to place your rubbish into the correct recycling bin. 

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The threat of a fine would force people to walk that extra few metres to the nearest container and, after a while, they would get used to it. Such a move would definitely help improve Hong Kong’s environment.

Snehaa Senthamilselvan Easwari, 18, Li Po Chun United World College

The debate on the use of scarce resources and the destruction of the environment has gone on for a long time. If all of us picked up the simple habit of recycling, we would be able to reduce our environmental problems. Although recycling waste is a stepping  stone to eco-friendly behaviour, people should not be fined if  they don’t do it.

Usually fines are levied for habits that cause serious harm to others. Speeding is extremely dangerous, and smoking can make others suffer through second-hand smoke. Although failing to recycle can damage the environment, it is not directly harmful to others. Why should people be fined for merely wasting resources?

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Even if such a policy were to become law, it would be difficult to implement. How could the government ensure that every individual is recycling their rubbish?

Unfortunately, people nowadays are greedy; they act only if there is personal gain. In other words, if you want them to do something, you have to give them something. Therefore, the government should keep this is mind when it introduces new schemes to promote greener behaviour.

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Although countries like Britain and America have already introduced fines for residents who do not recycle properly, such a method is not suitable for Hong Kong. Instead of imposing fines, the local government should provide incentives: for example, the authorities could offer a special tax break for recycling. This would not only raise awareness of the importance of recycling but also influence the public to be more responsible for their actions.

Recycling should be seen as a responsibility, not an obligation. Although a sustainable lifestyle holds the key to a better environment, it is wrong to penalise people who do not agree with that view.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Should people be fined for not recycling in Hong Kong?

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