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LCQ1: Waste electrical and electronic equipment
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     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (January 5):

Question:

     Some green groups have predicted that along with Hong Kong's economic recovery, coupled with the introduction of many new models of electrical and electronic equipment by manufacturers in recent years, including smart phones, tablet personal computers and high-definition television sets, which attract quite a number of consumers to purchase such equipment and dispose of equipment of old models, the amount of electronic waste in Hong Kong will increase.  On the other hand, the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced that the Regulation on Disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment would come into operation with effect from January 1, 2011, which expressly stipulates that import of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) forbidden to be imported to the State is not allowed.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective quantities of WEEE generated, disposed of and recycled in Hong Kong in the past three years; among such waste, the quantity of recycled equipment exported to the Mainland and other major regions; as well as the equipment and raw materials involved;

(b) whether it has assessed if the implementation of the aforesaid Regulation by the State will reduce the avenues to export recycle WEEE from Hong Kong and increase the quantity of such equipment being disposed of in landfills; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, of the specific details, as well as the options to address the problem; and

(c) as it has been more than half a year since the authorities completed public consultation on the producer responsibility scheme for WEEE, when the authorities will formally commence work on the introduction of the legislation concerned and introduce it into the Legislative Council for scrutiny, with a view to reducing the generation of WEEE at source?

Reply:

President,

     As a consumption-oriented society, Hong Kong generates a significant amount of WEEE annually.  There are still useful and with economic value. Moreover, the recycling value of WEEE is higher than that of other recyclable wastes; the treatment process could open up local business opportunities.  The Environment Bureau conducted a public consultation on implementing proper management of WEEE through the introduction of mandatory Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS) and actively planned to include WEEE in PRS.  One of the key objectives of the PRS is to arrange local treatment of WEEE, as against the current export-dependant situation.  Our reply to the three parts of the question is as follows íV

(a)The amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) generated, disposed of and recycled in Hong Kong between 2007 and 2009 is tabulated below.  

        Generated      Disposed      Recycled
      ('000 tonnes)  ('000 tonnes) ('000 tonnes)
2007      70.1           11.1          59.0
2008      71.4           12.6          58.8
2009      72.0           7.7           64.3

     As shown in the statistics, some 80% to 90% of WEEE generated in Hong Kong is recycled, eventually leaving only a small amount being disposed of at landfills.  The majority of WEEE being recycled is shipped to developing countries for re-use and recovery.  Products and recyclables involved are mainly television sets, refrigerators, waste plastic and waste metals.  As to the export statistics, we do not have breakdown figures for individual export destinations.  

(b) In accordance with Article 35 of the Regulations for the Administration of the Recovery and Disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Products (the Regulations) promulgated by the State Council, the Regulations shall commence operation on January 1, 2011.  With the key objective of introducing controls through a PRS, the Regulations cover mainly matters relating to the collection, recovery and disposal of WEEE within Mainland China.  In addition, Mainland China has banned the import of WEEE for some years in order to stop the pollution problems arising from the influx of waste from the outside.  Under Article 9 of the Regulations, WEEE that are prohibited from import by the State shall not be imported.  The aforesaid provision reaffirms the established import ban.  But as indicated in the consultation document on the PRS on WEEE that we published last year, the demand for second-hand products from other places in the world is expected to drop; the import control on WEEE might also be progressively tightened internationally.  We have therefore proposed to develop local treatment facilities by which we could avoid the bulk of WEEE being disposed of at landfills.  In addition, many used products might be reused after refurbishment and parts reused or recycled.  Eventually non-recyclable components in WEEE would be detoxified so as to ensure that they would not cause harm to the environment and human health.


(c) We received more than 2700 submissions during the public consultation on the PRS on WEEE.  The community at large and the relevant trades are generally supportive.  But since the scheme involves different aspects including coverage, flow management (including enhanced import and export control), proper treatment and sharing of costs, it is essential for us to conduct in-depth analysis and draw reference from the different experiences in other jurisdictions.  We plan to engage the relevant trades into in-depth discussions later in the year on four key aspects including the charging mechanism, the treatment mechanism, import and export control as well as the support to the local recycling and treatment of WEEE so as to enhance the recovery rate of WEEE and at the same time promote a locally-rooted recycling industry.  The Government would strive to put in place the PRS on WEEE as soon as possible.    

Ends/Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:36

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