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LCQ3: Waste recycling yards and waste recovery measures

     Following is a question by the Hon Vincent Fang and the reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):


     Fires broke out at waste recycling yards in the New Territories one after another, and the waste materials stocked in such yards were burnt, emitting toxic smoke which polluted the air of Hong Kong.  Regarding the regulation of waste recycling yards and the implementation of waste recovery and waste treatment measures, will the Government inform this Council of:

(a) the number of waste recycling yards in Hong Kong at present and their areas; whether it knows the major types of wastes recovered and stocked at such waste recycling yards; the details of the big fires which broke out at waste recycling yards in the past three years and the follow-up actions taken;

(b) the regulation of waste recycling yards by the authorities at present; the means and procedures for waste recycling yards to obtain approval for the relevant land use; whether there are restrictions on the types and quantity of wastes being recovered and stocked; whether it knows the methods of treatment, the outlets and the final destinations of such wastes, and whether regulation is in place; if regulation is not in place, please explain the reasons; and

(c) the results and effectiveness of waste separation and recycling since  implementation as well as the latest improvement measures in place; how the amount of wastes recovered through the relevant policy compares with that of similar types of wastes disposed of at landfills in the past three years; the ways to treat the wastes recovered and the percentage of wastes recycled locally; whether the Government has any plan for recycling usable wastes in Hong Kong through the introduction of policy, financial or tax concessions and technical support; if not, the reasons for that?


     Waste recycling yards in Hong Kong must be operated in compliance with various requirements relating to land use, town planning, environmental protection and fire safety, etc.  My reply to Hon Fang's question is as follows:

(a) At present, in Hong Kong, there are approximately 200 waste recycling yards for various types of items such as metal, plastics, paper, and electrical and electronic equipment.  In the past three years, there were 13 cases of major fires (with No. 3 alarm or above) broken out in waste recycling yards.  Out of these 13 cases, eight were found with undetermined cause, two were caused by flying ember caused by hill fire, and the remaining three cases were caused by general electric faults, flying ember caused by waste burning, and careless handling of lighted materials.  After the outbreak of fire, the Fire Service Department (FSD) will conduct inspection at the relevant recycling yard for any contraventions under the Fire Services Ordinance (Cap 95) and the Dangerous Goods Ordinance (Cap 295).  In two of the 13 cases mentioned above, FSD has initiated prosecution actions under the Dangerous Goods Ordinance.

     Currently many recycling yards are operating on private land or on Government land under a short term tenancy (STT).  In response to the fire incidents occurred at recycling yards, starting from February 2011, the Lands Department (LandsD) will remind applicants of STTs or Short Term Waivers (STWs) after the approval of the such instruments that they should install fire service installations in accordance with FSD”¦s requirements.  Should the applicants fail to install the fire service installations in accordance with FSD's requirements in a timely manner, FSD may inform LandsD of the situation or recommend that LandsD terminates the relevant STT or STW.  

(b) Regarding land use, the location of recycling yards is subject to the relevant requirements under the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap 131).  Taking into account the actual circumstances, LandsD may also consult relevant departments including FSD to see if it is necessary to include any conditions on land use restrictions into the STT (for cases involving Government land) or the STW (for cases involving private land).  

     In addition, all recycling yard operators must comply with the relevant regulations relating to fire safety, waste disposal and pollution control.  Waste recycling yards will also be subject to the relevant control should their operation involve the handling of some specific types of wastes such as livestock waste, chemical waste, construction waste and clinical waste.  

(c) In the past few years, the Government has implemented a number of new policies and initiatives to promote waste recycling.  Under the Product Eco-Responsibility Ordinance which was enacted in 2008, we have implemented the environmental levy scheme on plastic shopping bags and are planning for a mandatory producer responsibility scheme (PRS) on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).  This PRS will enhance the recycling and recovery of WEEE.  At the same time, we have proposed new licencing requirements for the storage and treatment of used and waste electrical and electronic products.  On the other hand, the Government will continue to promote the various voluntary PRSs to enhance the recycling of computer, compact fluorescent lamps, fluorescent tubes, rechargeable batteries and glass in conjunction with the relevant trades.

     The development of the EcoPark is another important initiative to promote the local recycling industry.  It aims to provide long-term land and associated communal facilities at affordable rent to encourage investment by the environmental industry for the treatment of locally generated recyclables.  EcoPark Phase 1 has been in operation, whereas all six lots in Phase 2 have been leased.  Together with the two recycling centres run by non-profit oorganisations there are in total 14 tenants in the EcoPark for such recyclables as waste wood, waste cooking oil, WEEE, waste plastics, waste metals, waste batteries, waste rubber tyres and waste construction materials.  We have also earmarked land in EcoPark Phase 2 for the development of the WEEE treatment plant required under the PRS on WEEE.  

     With the support of the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF), we have launched a series of community-based waste recovery projects including the two afore-mentioned recycling centres at the EcoPark which handle waste plastics and WEEE respectively.  Through the source separation programmes supported by the ECF, residential and commercial and industrial buildings receive financial assistance to procure and install waste separation facilities.  Together with the three-coloured waste separation bins installed by the Government at public places, we encourage members of the public to practise source separation of waste at home, at workplace and in public areas.  In addition, the Funding Scheme for Food Waste Recycling in Housing Estates has been rolled out under the ECF to ssubsidisethe installation of on-site food waste treatment facilities at participating housing estates.  Residents are encouraged to recycle food waste for on-site treatment; activities are also oorganisedfor the purpose of public education and publicity among the residents.

     With the above policies and initiatives, we have achieved a 52% municipal solid waste (MSW) recovery rate in 2010, up from 43% in 2005.  Our target is to further enhance our recycling initiatives to achieve a recovery rate of 55% in 2015.  The Government will continue to engage relevant stakeholders and the District Councils to further enhance waste reduction and recycling and to provide convenient channels for the collection of recyclables.  

     Among the major recyclables such as waste paper and waste plastics, many have recorded an increased recycling amount in the past three years.  The amount of the three major types of recyclables being recycled and disposed of is set out in the Annex.  The majority of these recyclables is exported to neighbouring jurisdictions, such as the Mainland, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, for recovery or reuse.  

Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:12


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