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LC: Speech by Acting SEN in moving the Second Reading of the Promotion of Recycling and Proper Disposal (Product Container) (Amendment) Bill 2015(English Only)

     Following is the speech by the Acting Secretary for the Environment, Ms Christine Loh, in moving the Second Reading of the Promotion of Recycling and Proper Disposal (Product Container) (Amendment) Bill 2015 in the Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting today (July 8):


     I move the Second Reading of the Promotion of Recycling and Proper Disposal (Product Container) (Amendment) Bill 2015 to amend the Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance and the Waste Disposal Ordinance for the implementation of the producer responsibility scheme (PRS) on glass beverage containers.

     In 2013, the Environment Bureau published the Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources setting the target of reducing our per capita municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal by 40 per cent by 2022. Amongst other things, we have committed to drive behavioural change through policies and legislation, including the introduction of MSW charging and PRS, in order to reduce waste at source. A number of such initiatives have made good progress in the past year. For instance:

* The Council for Sustainable Development published its report last December putting forward recommendations on how to implement quantity-based MSW charging in Hong Kong. We have commenced the preparatory work;

* Plastic shopping bag charging has been extended to the entire retail sector in Hong Kong with effect from April 1 this year;

* The Legislative Council approved the funding this February for the development of the waste electrical and electronic equipment treatment and recycling facility at the EcoPark. The facility will support the future implementation of the PRS on waste electrical and electronic equipment. We subsequently introduced a bill into the LegCo in March 2015 and the bill is now under the scrutiny of a bills committee.

     The current Amendment Bill will further expand the PRS system, thus paving the way for the implementation of quantity-based MSW charging.

     Glass beverage containers are suitable for recycling and reuse. However, we first need to create a circular economy, such that there are practicable solutions in source separation, collection logistics, proper treatment and recovery outlets for the materials. Past practical experience suggests that it will be difficult to arrange for effective collection of waste glass containers and turn them into resources by relying solely on market forces. This is mainly because the commercial value of glass is low while the logistics cost is high and there are only limited recovery outlets locally in Hong Kong. Due to these constraints, the majority of the waste glass containers generated in Hong Kong are disposed of at landfills. They constitute about 2.7 per cent of our daily MSW disposal.

     With a mandatory PRS, we will have aligned statutory and administrative measures to create a circular economy for glass beverage containers.

     I will explain the key features of the Amendment Bill.

     We propose the legislation to first target beverage held in glass containers. This is referred to as "regulated articles" in the Bill. We generate about 286 tonnes of waste glass containers in Hong Kong every day, of which about 194 tonnes are glass beverage containers, 85 tonnes are glass food or sauce containers, and 7 tonnes are other glass containers. We propose a phased approach to first target glass beverage bottles. If we included other types of glass containers, commonly bought household items would be included, and this may lead to potential livelihood concerns.

     Beverage containers are also easier to handle. They can just be emptied. Glass containers for food and sauces are more complicated to clean. If they are not properly cleaned, it may undermine the recycling process. That said, the Amendment Bill provides a framework facilitating our review of future extension to cover other product containers. At the same time, we will continue with public education to promote "clean recycling". We will continue to accept all types of properly cleansed glass containers (including food or sauce containers).

     As required under the Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance, PRSs must be implemented based on the "polluter pays" principle. Hence, we propose to collect a recycling levy from suppliers who distribute or consume regulated articles in Hong Kong. Exports or re-exports will not be subject to levy. We will prescribe the charging level by subsidiary legislation after taking into account the full costs that the Government has incurred in the implementation of the PRS.

     We also propose a levy collection mechanism. First, the relevant manufacturers and importers must be registered as "registered suppliers". They have to submit periodic returns, setting out the necessary information for the computation of the recycling levy payable, and pay the levy. The registered supplier will also have to engage an independent auditor to conduct annual audits on the periodic returns to ensure factual accuracy and to keep records to facilitate future inspection. We will continue to closely engage the relevant trades to further discuss the operational details, which will be prescribed by subsidiary legislation to be introduced after the enactment of the Amendment Bill.

     At present, a small number of suppliers have their own recovery arrangements to collect glass beverage bottles for reuse. We propose to provide an exemption mechanism for these suppliers so as to encourage the continuation of these arrangements. We also propose that the mechanism be underpinned by a monitoring and auditing system to ensure the glass beverage containers are recovered. For instance, we will require registered suppliers to submit detailed plans when applying for exemption.

     The Government will use the levy raised to appoint several glass management contractors, by open tender, to collect waste glass containers from local communities so that they can be treated and used as a resource. We propose to impose licensing control to enhance the regulation of the storage, treatment, reprocessing and recycling of container waste. At the same time, we propose to require a permit for the import and export of container waste.

     In order for the PRS to turn waste glass containers into a resource there must be successful implementation of three complementary measures.

     First, there must be suitable recycling hardware at the community level. In the past two years, we have made good progress in setting up glass container collection points. About 1,200 residential collection points have been established, covering about 69 per cent of the population. We also have 500 collection points in other premises and public places. As the hospitality trades are the major producers of waste glass containers, we will step up our collaboration with them.

     Secondly, there must be suitable incentives for the PRS to work well. At present, there are various voluntary recycling programmes. We will consolidate their experience and consider how to apply effective measures more widely. Looking ahead, when quantity-based MSW charging is implemented, the "pay as you throw" principle will create a direct economic incentive for the segregation of glass containers from other waste.

     Thirdly, there must be adequate recovery outlets for the recovered glass materials. At present, waste glass containers are mainly crushed into cullet for use as construction material, such as for the production of eco-pavers and partition bricks. Some public works projects have also adopted recycled glass materials as fill. The construction industry is exploring the feasibility of using glass cullet to substitute river sand. Some recyclers have also indicated that there are export markets. Taken all together, there are sustainable outlets for recycled glass materials.

     In April, we presented the latest developments to the Panel on Environmental Affairs. We look forward to explaining further to Members at the Bills Committee stage. While the Amendment Bill is under scrutiny, we will in parallel take forward other preparatory work, including further expansion of the collection network, preparation of the open tenders for the glass management contractor contracts, and publicity and public education. We hope that the PRS can be fully implemented as soon as practicable.

     With these remarks, I move the motion.

Ends/Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Issued at HKT 17:14


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