LCQ5: Disposal and recycling of municipal solid waste

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (March 25):


     As revealed by the "Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong - Waste Statistics for 2013" published in February this year, the per capita municipal solid waste disposal rate per day (the disposal rate) rose from 1.27 kilograms (kg) in 2011 to 1.33 kg in 2013, and the recovery rate dropped from 48 per cent in 2011 to 37 per cent in 2013. In 2013, more than 90 per cent of recyclable materials were exported but the export values have dropped year-on-year since 2011. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has studied why the disposal rate has continued to rise after the implementation of a number of waste reduction measures in recent years; whether it has assessed if the disposal rate will increase in the next few years; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, of the new measures the authorities have in place to achieve the targets set out in the "Hong Kong Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022" (the Blueprint), i.e. to reduce the disposal rate to 1 kg and 0.8 kg or below by 2017 and 2022 respectively; if the authorities have no new measures, whether they will consider revising such targets;

(2) given that the aforesaid report pointed out that the recovery rate decreased mainly because of substantial fluctuations in export statistics of waste plastics, whether the authorities have assessed if such situation was due to the implementation of the "Operation Green Fence" by the mainland authorities; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, of the remedial measures; what measures the authorities have in place to increase the recovery rate in order to achieve the targeted recovery rate of 55 per cent by 2022, as set out in the Blueprint; and

(3) given that the Government set up the Steering Committee to Promote the Sustainable Development of the Recycling Industry in 2013 to study measures to support the recycling industry, of the latest progress and outcome of the work of the committee; what new measures the authorities have in place to encourage the development of the local recycling industry?



     The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has been adopting the principle of reduce, reuse and recycle to tackle the waste management challenges. Public awareness of waste reduction and recycling has been enhanced gradually with the coordination and support of various policies and actions.  However, the waste recovery rate of Hong Kong fluctuated in the past few years under the influence of a number of external factors, such as economic fluctuations, weaker demand, tightened restrictions set by various countries on the import of recycling materials, etc. Nevertheless, the quantity of waste disposed of has remained stable over the past years and has not produced any additional pressure on the landfills or compromised the actual effectiveness of our work on recycling.

     The Government published the Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022 (hereafter named "the Blueprint") in May 2013 which sets out the target to reduce our per capita municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal rate by 40 per cent by or before 2022. The key initiatives are threefold: First, to drive a change in behaviour striving to reduce waste at source through policies and legislation. Second, to launch territory-wide waste reduction campaigns. Third, to allocate resources to enhance waste-related infrastructure. The efforts we put on these fronts have made gradual achievements.

     In regard to the questions raised by the Hon Chan Hak-kan, our replies are as follows:

(1) Hong Kong's daily per capita MSW disposal rate in 2013 was 1.33 kg, which was slightly higher than the 1.3 kg figure in 2012. This indicates that various economic activities, in particular, retail, food and beverage, and service industries etc. in Hong Kong remain active. The relevant effect of these activities on waste disposal is expected to largely continue in the coming year. On the other hand, compared to the daily per capita MSW disposal rate before the implementation of A Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste (2005-2014), i.e. 1.37 kg, the rate in 2013 has slightly decreased actually, indicating that the waste reduction programmes initiated by the Government over the years are effective in slowing down the rise in MSW disposal and even turn the trend around in Hong Kong.

     On the other hand, food waste has taken up 38 per cent of the total quantity of MSW disposed of in 2013, which was not a small proportion. In this regard, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has started to prepare the Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign since December 2012 to encourage active participation of different sectors in avoiding food waste at source. We expect that the positive effect of the campaign will gradually be seen in the relevant data in the next few years.

     We will continue our efforts on promoting waste reduction and recycling according to the targets set out in the Blueprint. The details of our latest work concerned are attached in Annex I.

(2) There was a drop in the recovery rate of MSW in Hong Kong in recent years, mainly due to a decrease in the waste paper and waste plastics recovered under the influence of external factors, such as the continued weak demand for raw materials, including recyclables, from the manufacturing industry of various countries. The Operation Green Fence launched by the Mainland authority since 2013 has also affected the value of recyclables, resulting in negative fluctuation in recycling activities in Hong Kong.

     For instance, compared to the figure in 2012, the total quantity of MSW recovered has decreased by 150 000 tonnes. The major contributing factor is the decrease of waste paper recovered by 130 000 tonnes.

     On the other hand, we observed that there had been a substantial change in the estimated recovery rate of wastes due to the unusual fluctuation in "domestic export" figures on waste plastics in recent years. In view of this, we commissioned a consultant in 2012 to review the overall situation of the generation, recovery and disposal of local waste plastics and to examine whether the current method of using mainly "domestic export" figures to estimate the quantity of waste recovered locally should continue. The result revealed that the current method remains the most desirable for Hong Kong. The formula we use in estimating the recovery rate is commonly adopted worldwide. We have also strengthened the verification work on the compilation of "domestic export" figures on waste plastics and the details of the work provided in Annex II.

     We wish to emphasise that the per capita MSW disposal rate should be regarded as the first priority pursuant to the policy objectives stipulated in the Blueprint. We will continue to promote recycling to attain the target set out in the Blueprint.

(3) Since its establishment in 2013, the Steering Committee to Promote the Sustainable Development of the Recycling Industry chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration has conducted in-depth discussion and study on the situation of local recyclables' collection and disposal, relevant policies and support measures, as well as viable measures to support the recycling industry. These include providing infrastructure such as land sites and dedicated berths in Public Cargo Working Areas, training and development of the industry's workforce, encouraging research and investment in relevant technologies, and fostering community support for recycling and enhancing the collection network of recyclables. Relevant departments are actively following up to implement these policies and measures.

     One of the key foci of our work is to set up a Recycling Fund to facilitate the upgrading of the operational capabilities and efficiency of the relevant industry practitioners for sustainable development. The Government has earmarked $1 billion for the Recycling Fund. The Legislative Council (LegCo) Panel on Environmental Affairs has indicated support for setting up of the Recycling Fund. The Recycling Fund is currently pending deliberation by the LegCo Finance Committee. On the other hand, the EPD has commissioned a consultancy study on the land requirements of the recycling industry. It has also conducted a review of the tendering arrangement in letting out short term tenancy sites in order to facilitate the Government in formulating relevant land support measures. Another consultancy study was commissioned by the EPD to review and expand the list of government procurement items with green specifications, as well as to improve the verification mechanism to facilitate green purchase by departments. Furthermore, the Government will form a working group on a "clean recycling" campaign this year with representatives from the industry to promote source separation and cleaning of wastes at the community level. By doing so, the recycling value and recovery rate of recyclables will be increased.

     President, the Government will continue to push ahead various waste reduction strategies and measures set out in the Blueprint.  However, the effectiveness of our work hinges on the actual support and participation of the public.  In the coming years, it will be a crucial juncture for the implementation of the Blueprint, including the volume-based waste charging scheme. In collaboration with the Council and various sectors in the community, we wish to work towards achieving the targets set out in the Blueprint.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:53