LCQ5: Government supports the development of the waste recycling industry

     Following is a question by the Hon Vincent Fang Kang and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (January 26):


     Although the overall waste recovery rate in Hong Kong at present has reached 49%, over 90% of the recovered waste is exported to other countries and regions, with a very small amount of waste being recycled in Hong Kong.  However, officials of the Environment Bureau have indicated to the Panel on Environmental Affairs of this Council that "as there were no outlets for" some recyclable wastes, "these (waste plastics) had to be disposed of at landfills" and "some recycling operations had since become financially non-viable".  In addition, some countries and regions (including the Mainland) have gradually banned the import of waste materials, and some environmentalists have pointed out that it is doubtful how much recovered waste in Hong Kong is eventually recycled successfully; and whether the proposals in the Government's "Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste" can successfully reduce waste and achieve the specific targets under the "3R principles" is even more worrying.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  among the waste recovered in 2010, of the ratio between the waste which is exported and which is recycled locally, whether it knows the types and amounts of waste received by places of import in the past three years, and the amount and percentage of waste which cannot be recycled and is eventually disposed of at landfills in the past three years;

(b)  whether it knows the number of recycling operators in Hong Kong, the types of waste recycled and their production capabilities; whether these operators are currently receiving support or funding from the Government or other organisations; whether the Government will adjust the current business strategies of EcoPark; and

(c)  given the remarks of the officials of the Environment Bureau that some recycling operations were financially non-viable, whether the Government will, by making reference to the practices of other countries, provide direct support and funding for or even invest in waste recycling industries in order to resolve the problem of waste accumulation; if not, of the reasons for that; and the measures to resolve the problem of waste accumulation in Hong Kong as waste has become worthless and unmarketable with no importing ends because of declining economic benefits brought by waste recovery?



(a)  Over the past three years (2007-2009), the recovery rate of local municipal solid waste (MSW) rose from 46% in 2007 to 49% in 2008 and 2009.  As most recyclables still had economic value and could be recycled, a substantial amount (about 90% in terms of weight) was shipped to Mainland China, Taiwan and neighbouring countries such as Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.  Details of the volume of major recyclables exported and their destinations are set out in the table annexed.  The amount of MSW which could not be recycled and eventually disposed of at landfills also declined over the same period to 3.35 million tonnes, 3.3 million tonnes and 3.27 million tonnes respectively, representing a drop from 54% of the total MSW in 2007 to 51% in 2008 and 2009.

(b)  There are about 500 recyclers in Hong Kong engaging mainly in collecting, baling and exporting recyclables.  There are also companies and non-profit-making organisations developing value-added recycling operations locally on recyclables including waste cooking oil, waste computers, waste electrical equipment, waste metals, waste wood, waste batteries, waste plastics and waste glass.  Some of them operate on land provided by the Government such as the EcoPark, industrial estates and short-term tenancy sites dedicated to the environmental industry.  There are 33 short-term tenancy sites dedicated to the recycling industry, occupying a total area of 5.8 hectares.  The two phases of the EcoPark provide a total of 14 hectares of land for use.

     The development of the EcoPark is an initiative by the Government to promote the local environmental industry.  It aims to provide long-term land and associated communal facilities at affordable rent to promote and encourage investment by the environmental and recycling industry.  The EcoPark provides infrastructure such as an internal road network, berths for cargo ships and a multi-function administration building.  The tenants can invest their capital more effectively in advanced technologies and value-added processes.  We also review the operation strategy of the EcoPark from time to time to cater for the requirements of the recycling industry.  From the experience gained in the tendering of the Phase 1 sites, we have consulted stakeholders, including the Legislative Council's Panel on Environmental Affairs in November 2010, on the proposed leasing arrangements of the Phase 2 sites.  The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is preparing for the leasing of Phase 2 sites and will uphold the principle of open, competitive, fair and just process in the selection of tenants.  It will strive to enhance the attractiveness of the EcoPark sites to the recycling industry and facilitate and assist with tenants' early operation after they have moved into the EcoPark.

(c)  To support the development of the waste recycling industry, the Government has set out a series of initiatives in the Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste (2005-2014).  They include:

*  Programmes on source separation of waste to encourage the public to separate waste at source so as to increase the amount of local recyclables for collection;
*  Identifying more suitable sites for lease to the recycling industry under short-term tenancy through bidding;
*  Developing the EcoPark to provide long-term land for the recycling industry at affordable rent so as to facilitate and encourage investment by the recycling industry.  The target is to transform gradually the traditional simple mode of recycling operation (i.e. collection, baling and exporting) into high value-added processes that comply with environmental and other statutory requirements;
*  Promoting the green procurement policy among government departments to boost the demand for green products as an outlet for recycled/green products and materials;
*  Implementing producer responsibility schemes (PRS) to encourage the public and the industry to engage more actively in waste recovery; and
*  Encouraging the development of recycling technology to upgrade the standard of local recycling industry through the Innovation and Technology Fund, the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) and various funds for small and medium enterprises.

     On the basis of the above initiatives, the Government has further raised MSW recovery target to 55% in 2015.  We will try to achieve this target through strengthening district recycling facilities and networks, further expanding the PRS as well as launching a public consultation on MSW charging.  We believe that such policy initiatives can ensure a steady supply of source materials for various recycling trades.  We will also explore more outlets for recyclables.  Through the ECF, the EPD also subsidises non-profit-making organisations to implement recycling and processing schemes for waste plastics and waste electrical equipment at Phase 2 of the EcoPark.

     Due to the constraints of the local industry, it may not be practicable to recycle locally a substantial amount of the recyclables.  Nevertheless, the Government will review the development of recyclables use from time to time.  For example, the Highways Department has stipulated in their public road maintenance contracts that priority should be given to eco-paving blocks containing recycled glass, which helps to promote their production by our recycling industry locally.  Separately, our proposed PRS on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) includes the development of local treatment facilities to handle WEEE with detoxifying methods.

Ends/Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:23