(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong shelved a waste-charging plan that had been discussed for almost two decades, putting in doubt its target for reducing rubbish sent to landfills and undermining its environmental efforts.

Most people were against the proposal, which was seen placing businesses under pressure in a difficult economic situation, according to a government statement on Monday. 

The “polluter pays” plan, which was first put on the table by officials in 2005, was passed into law in August 2021. Over 5 million tonnes of waste are disposed of annually in the city’s landfills, which are close to capacity, according to the government.

Under the scheme, residents would be forced to buy special bags costing 11 HK cents a liter to put their garbage in, or face a fine of HK$1,500 ($192). For larger items that didn’t fit into the bags, they would need to buy HK$11 labels to put on them. One official earlier suggested people could saw awkwardly shaped items such as old mops in half in order to fit them into the bags.

The plan, which was to start in August, had already been postponed twice before the government suspended it.

Greenpeace program director Leanne Tam told local broadcaster RTHK on Monday the government would be irresponsible if it failed to take the lead in waste charging. 

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