LCQ24: Recycling of waste

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for the Environment, Ms Christine Loh, in the Legislative Council (LegCo) today (December 16):


     Two of the targets set out in the Hong Kong Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022 published by the Government in 2013 are to reduce the per capita municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal rate from 1.27 kilograms per day in 2011 to 0.8 kilograms or less per day in 2022, and to raise the waste recycling rate from 48 per cent in 2011 to 55 per cent in 2022. On the other hand, with the economic downturn of the Mainland in recent years, the demand for recyclable materials has declined drastically, causing the prices of waste plastics, paper and metals to have dropped by 40 per cent, 30 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. It is learnt that quite a number of plastic recyclers have stopped buying waste plastics, resulting in large quantities of waste plastics being sent to landfills for disposal. Regarding the recycling of waste, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the average recycling rate and disposal rate of waste plastics from last year to the first half of this year; the respective average recycling rates and disposal rates of waste paper and metals in each of the past five years;

(2) of the respective quantities and export prices of waste plastics, paper and metals exported from Hong Kong to the Mainland in each of the past five years;

(3) of the respective quantities of waste plastics, paper and metals recycled as useful materials in Hong Kong in each of the past five years;

(4) whether it has examined if the quantity of waste sent to various landfills for disposal in recent months has been on the increase; if it has, of the details, and the quantity of waste which can be recycled among such waste;

(5) given that it is learnt that the refuse rooms of some housing estates are often piled with large quantities of recyclable waste plastics, whether the authorities have looked into such situation; if they have, of the details, and whether they have received complaints from members of the public in this regard; if they have not looked into it, the reasons for that;

(6) given that the authorities are progressively implementing the scheme of Community Green Stations to promote environmental education to different sectors of the society and assist communities in the recycling of different types of materials, whether the authorities have drawn up targeted recycling rates and quantities for various types of waste; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(7) given that according to the Hong Kong Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022, the Government would roll out stakeholder engagement exercises and commence law drafting for MSW charging during the period from 2013 to 2015, of the current progress of the relevant work (including the implementation timetable for the stakeholder engagement exercises for MSW charging);

(8) given that all along there has not been any marked increase in the waste loads collected by three-colour waste separation bins placed in various districts over the years, whether the authorities will consider placing more of such bins in various districts; whether they will consider following the practices of some countries and placing only two types of rubbish bins in public places to collect recyclable waste and non-recyclable waste, so as to facilitate the disposal of recyclable waste by members of the public; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(9) given that even though the Environment Bureau introduced a Recycling Fund involving $1 billion in October this year to assist the recycling industry in upgrading its operational capabilities and efficiency, in order to promote the sustainable development of the recycling industry, the first batch of funds will not be granted until March next year, whether the authorities have short-term measures to help recyclers cope with their operational difficulties before the funds are granted; if they do, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(10) whether it will consider following the practices of neighbouring regions (such as Taiwan) and establishing a complete industry chain for the recycling industry (including the implementation of quantity-based charging for waste treatment and subsidising the recycling industry with the income so collected); if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(1) In 2014, the recovery rate and disposal rate of waste plastics are 12 per cent and 88 per cent respectively, and 99 000 tonnes of plastic recyclables were recovered and 736 000 tonnes of waste plastics were disposed of. Relevant statistics for 2015 are still being collected and compiled, thus we cannot provide the figures for the first half of 2015.

     The recovery rates and disposal rates of waste paper and metals over the past five years are set out in Annex 1.

(2), (3) and (4) The relevant statistics about the recovery of waste plastics, paper and metals are set out in Annex 2. While the Government has not compiled official statistics on recovery prices of recyclables, we have been maintaining close contact with the industry and keeping abreast of their operational and market situation through different channels. We observed that due to external factors, there was indeed a general decreasing trend in recent years in the domestic export unit value* (i.e. value divided by quantity) of various types of recyclables, which is calculated based on information on the domestic export declarations for recyclables. The average declared domestic export unit value of various major types of recyclables over the past five years are set out in Annex 3.

     According to the preliminary data collected at waste facilities, the quantities of MSW disposed of at landfills in the second and third quarter of 2015 are 928 000 tonnes and 956 000 tonnes respectively, 2.7 per cent and 2.7 per cent higher than the same period last year respectively. As for the quantities of waste analysed by waste type, we are still compiling and analysising the data, thus we cannot provide relevant statistics at the present stage. From our observation through daily monitoring at refuse transfer stations and landfills, there is no disposal of large quantities of recyclables at landfills.

(5) The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has been maintaining close communication with the local recycling industry and monitoring closely the market situation of recyclables particularly plastics. At present, the quantities and values of recovery of waste plastics are indeed under the pressure of external factors such as decreasing oil prices and stringent import and export control measures of relevant markets. That said, we learnt from the industry that there is still a certain demand for clean and sorted waste plastics from the local market. Therefore, through publicity and public education, the EPD will continue to promote waste separation at source and not to contaminate the recyclables and mix them with waste. This will help increase the value and recovery of the recyclables including plastics.

     From our visit to various housing estates, community collection points and waste plastics recycling sites, we observe that the collection, recycling and treatment of waste plastics are generally in normal operation. As far as we understand, in response to the situation concerned, some recyclers have adjusted the recycling processes, made flexible arrangement regarding the storage volume and looked for other outlets.

     The EPD has noticed individual news which mentioned stockpiling of waste plastics, but we have not received requests for assistance from housing estates for processing large quantities of waste plastics. That said, we have proactively approached the property management sector and indicated to them that we can help liaise with recyclers to collect and process their recyclables if needed.

(6) The Government is progressively developing one Community Green Station (CGS) in each of the 18 districts, which will be run by non-profit making organisations to step up environmental education and complement the recycling operation of the recycling industry, particularly the recycling of low-value recyclables (such as electrical appliances, computers, plastic bottles, glass bottles, compact fluorescent lamps and rechargeable batteries) in the local community. As the CGS is still in the early stage of operation, the first two CGSs have set targets to recover no less than 250 tonnes of recyclables per year. The relevant requirement may be adjusted in light of the district situation and operational experience gathered.

(7) The Government is committed to implementing municipal solid waste (MSW) charging as soon as possible. There are four relevant areas of preparation work, including:

(a) Formulating effective implementation plans to give effect to the charging mechanism at the various types of MSW reception points;

(b) Development of relevant complementary systems;

(c) Stepping up of public education and community involvement programmes; and

(d) Drafting of the enabling legislation to provide the legal basis for implementation of MSW charging.

     The preparation work is making good progress and the details are set out in Annex 4.

(8) With a view to improving the collection and handling of waste separation bins at public places, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has required contractors to provide the recyclables collected to recyclers which have been inspected by the EPD. This is to ensure recyclables collected are properly handled and recovered. The purpose is to enhance public confidence in utilising waste collection bins at public places. Moreover, the Government monitors the performance of the contractor closely to ensure it complies with the above requirements. Meanwhile, the Government has made great effort to promote waste separation at source and clean recycling through various community activities. This will help enhance the quality and quantities of the recyclables collected at community level.

     To further facilitate waste reduction and resource recovery, the Environment Bureau will convene a Steering Group to review among other things the existing design and distribution of refuse collection facilities and waste separation facilities in public place and to make recommendations to complement the implementation of the MSW charging scheme in the future. The Steering Group will consider different recommendations including placing more waste separation bins in various districts and changing the design of the bins. We will duly take into account views of relevant stakeholders in the process.

(9) The purpose of the Recycling Fund is promote the recovery and recycling of waste by facilitating the upgrading of the operational capabilities and efficiency of the recycling industry for sustainable development, so that more waste can be converted into useful resources and products. Through upgrade of their operation, the recyclers will be in a better position to tackle challenges posed by market fluctuations.

     To facilitate small recyclers in applying for funding support from the Recycling Fund, we have introduced Small-scale Standard Projects to make it easier for them to apply under streamlined procedures for funding of projects that could help them to upgrade their collection or processing capacity and efficiency so that they could reduce their operation costs.

     In addition, we have stepped up communication with property management companies and parties concerned to encourage them to take initiatives to enhance the collection arrangement of recyclables. These initiatives include enlisting their support for active participation in recycling, proper sorting of waste by their types, rinsing the recyclables where possible. This is conducive to saving transportation and processing costs by recyclers. The hygienic condition of the recyclables handling process will also be improved. Moreover, we have assisted in relaying recyclers' concerns and suggestions to sectoral representatives of incorporated owners and property management companies. The EPD will continue to facilitate discussion by stakeholders with a view to improving the overall recycling landscape in Hong Kong.

(10) The Government has drawn on the experience of other countries and cities in promulgating initiatives to promote the sustainable development of the recycling industry and boost the recovery rate. Our work to promote recycling has helped reduce quantity of MSW disposed of and facilitate the development of a recycling chain. The relevant measures include:

(a) The development of 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. Over 150 000 tonnes of recyclable materials were processed by the EcoPark tenants in 2014;

(b) The promotion of the green procurement policy among government departments to boost the demand for green products as an outlet for recycled/green products and materials;

(c) The launch of the $1 billion Recycling Fund to assist recyclers to improve the collection network for recyclables, invest on machinery to lower the processing costs, develop value-adding recycled products, explore new market, obtain certification for the recycling process, attend training to enhance their skills and awareness of occupational safety and health etc.;

(d) The implementation of the mandatory producer responsibility schemes. We have submitted the proposal on mandatory producer responsibility schemes for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment and glass beverage containers for scrutiny of the LegCo; and

(e) The encouragement of the development of recycling technologies to upgrade the standard of local recycling industry through the Innovation and Technology Fund, the Environment and Conservation Fund and various funds for small and medium enterprises.

     The Government will continue to review the effectiveness of these measures and take follow-up actions and enhancement measures in a timely manner to enhance the value of local recycling operation and promote the growth of a green circular economy.

Ends/Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Issued at HKT 18:58