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LCQ16: Handling of waste car batteries

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (June 22):


     It is understood that the car batteries widely used in cars at present contain high concentrations of lead and acid liquids and, if handled improperly, will seriously pollute water and soil.  However, some trade representatives have reflected that there is currently no suitable treatment facility in Hong Kong, and they worry that law-breakers will dissemble waste car batteries improperly to extract useful substances from these waste batteries, causing pollution problems.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows, in each of the past three years, the respective number of car batteries replaced and the number of car batteries collected by the 23 licensed chemical waste collectors (LCWCs);
(b) in accordance with existing requirements, how LCWCs should handle the car batteries they collected; and whether it knows, in the past three years, if there is any difference between the number of waste car batteries handled in accordance with the procedures required at present and the actual number of car batteries replaced; if so, of the details;
(c) of the number of prosecutions instituted by the Government against improper handling of waste car batteries in the past three years; and

(d) whether it has plans to set up suitable treatment facilities for waste car batteries; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



      Generally speaking, abandoned waste car batteries fall within the category of chemical waste and are regulated under the Waste Disposal Ordinance and the Waste Disposal (Chemical Waste) (General) Regulation (hereinafter called "the Regulation").  According to the Regulation, waste car battery producers such as auto repair shops, must register with the Environmental Protection Department (EPD).  The packaging, labelling and storage of waste batteries must follow the Code of Practice published under the Regulation.  There are currently about 1 700 registered producers of waste car batteries in Hong Kong.  The Waste Disposal Ordinance provides for the licensing of collection and disposal of waste car batteries.  Waste car battery collectors and disposal facilities must be licensed and are required to manage waste car batteries in accordance with the licence conditions.   There are currently 23 licensed collectors and two licensed recycling or disposal facilities.   The Waste Disposal Ordinance also controls import and export of waste car batteries.  A permit must be obtained from the EPD for each import or export case and the operation must comply with the permit conditions.  In addition, a "Trip Ticket" system is currently in force to track the generation, collection and disposal of waste batteries.  Waste producers, licensed collectors and disposal facilities have to report on and keep copy of each Trip Ticket as a documentary proof of proper handling of chemical waste.  From time to time, the EPD conducts inspections to waste car battery collection points, storage sites and disposal facilities to ensure that chemical waste is properly handled from the point of generation to its final disposal, and in accordance with the Regulation.   Under the Waste Disposal Ordinance and the Regulation, offences related to waste car batteries would be subject to a maximum fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for six months upon conviction.

     My reply to the four parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The life expectancy and replacement time of car batteries are affected by various factors, mainly including vehicle mileages, vehicle repair and maintenance conditions, battery qualities and driving habits of vehicle owners.  Some drivers may replace their car batteries before they are totally flat out.  Such batteries are still reusable and may be recovered for resale.  Given the increasing traffic volume between Hong Kong and the Mainland, some Hong Kong drivers choose to replace their car batteries in the Mainland.  In view of the above factors, we are unable to reliably estimate the number of car batteries being replaced annually in Hong Kong.  However, according to the Trip Ticket records of chemical waste, licensed waste collectors collected and handled on average about 1 200 tonnes of waste batteries (mainly lead acid batteries for vehicles) each year in Hong Kong over the past three years, which was roughly equivalent to some 50 000 waste car batteries.

(b) Under the Waste Disposal Ordinance, licensed collectors of waste car batteries must deliver the waste to licensed reception facilities.  The liquid electrolyte in the batteries must be separately collected and delivered to the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre for treatment and disposal.  Over the past three years, about 1 070 tonnes of waste batteries and battery electrolyte were delivered to the landfill and the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre for treatment and disposal annually.  The remaining some 130 tonnes of waste batteries were exported to overseas facilities for recycling.  For the reasons as stated in (a) above, we are unable to make comparison with the number of car batteries replaced in Hong Kong.

(c) The table attached shows the number of prosecutions involving waste batteries under the Waste Disposal Ordinance and the Regulation for the past three years.

(d) The production, collection and disposal of waste batteries are subject to regulatory control in Hong Kong.  At present, licensed collectors and disposal facilities have adequate capability and capacity to properly manage local waste arisings.  Nevertheless, waste car batteries can be recycled.  According to records kept by the EPD, a factory at the Yuen Long Industrial Estate is licensed to recycle waste car batteries.  One of the sites at Phase 1 of the EcoPark at Tuen Mun has been leased for recycling of waste batteries.  The EPD will continue to encourage recycling of waste car batteries with a view to reducing the quantities of waste required for disposal.

Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:15


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