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LCQ19: Regulation of electronic waste recycling sites and combat of associated illegal activities
     Following is a question by the Hon Chu Hoi-dick and a written reply by the Secretary for Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):


     Regarding the regulation of electronic waste (e-waste) recycling sites and the combat of associated illegal activities, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the current number of licensed e-waste recycling sites across the territory, their respective locations, and among such sites, the number of those which are located within "Green Belt" or "Agriculture" zones;

(2) whether it knows the current number of unlicensed e-waste recycling sites across the territory, their respective locations, and among such sites, the number of those which are located within "Green Belt" or "Agriculture" zones;

(3) of the follow-up actions taken in each of the past five years by the Planning Department against persons who had allegedly contravened the Town Planning Ordinance (Cap. 131) for operating e-waste recycling sites;

(4) of the number of cases, in each of the past five years, in which the Environmental Protection Department and the relevant government departments instituted prosecutions against persons operating e-waste recycling sites illegally, the number of such persons convicted and the penalties generally imposed on them;

(5) of the number of cases last year in which the authorities instituted prosecutions against persons importing hazardous e-waste illegally, the number of such persons convicted and the penalties generally imposed on them; and

(6) as it has been reported that since the Mainland authorities have been stringently combating illegal import of e-waste in recent years, some law-breaking business operators had imported to Hong Kong a large quantity of e-waste, and then (i) dumped it in the rural areas in the New Territories or (ii) dismantled and transported it back to the Mainland as recyclable waste materials, whether the authorities have stepped up inspections on and law enforcement actions against licensed and unlicensed e-waste recycling sites, as well as studied and discussed with the relevant Mainland departments on how to jointly combat such type of activities; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government is very concerned about environmental issues arising from electronic waste recycling sites, and continues to combat illegal import/export of hazardous waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and its dismantling and disposal at these sites in accordance with existing legislation. Under the Basel Convention, the international instrument that controls trans-boundary movements of hazardous waste, there are two main categories of WEEE: hazardous WEEE and non-hazardous WEEE. Non-hazardous WEEE such as computer main units and scanners are allowed to be imported and exported worldwide for recycling and recovery purposes. Hazardous WEEE such as computer monitors, liquid crystal display (LCD) panels and dismantled printed circuit boards (PCBs) are controlled under the Waste Disposal Ordinance (WDO). Their import and export are subject to stringent permit control, and any local premises where hazardous WEEE is dismantled and disposed of is required to be issued a chemical waste disposal licence under the WDO prior to its operation.

     In addition, the Government is making preparation for the introduction of the Producer Responsibility Scheme on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (the Scheme) to facilitate the proper treatment of WEEE in Hong Kong. The Scheme will initially cover certain regulated electrical equipment, including air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, computers, printers, scanners and monitors. To provide for the statutory regulatory framework for the Scheme, the Legislative Council approved in March 2016 the Promotion of Recycling and Proper Disposal (Electrical Equipment and Electronic Equipment) (Amendment) Ordinance 2016. The Ordinance stipulates, among others, that any person who is engaged in the storage, treatment, reprocessing or recycling of regulated WEEE must first obtain a waste disposal licence, save for certain exclusions. A recycler will be licensed only if his/her treatment facility and its operation satisfy the relevant terms and conditions.  Moreover, a permit will be required for the import and export of regulated WEEE in Hong Kong. The terms and conditions that have to be met by an applicant for the relevant licences and permits will be set with reference to the existing control provisions on hazardous WEEE. Subject to consultation with the trades, we plan to implement the relevant controls at the end of 2017.

     Enforcement and control actions taken by various departments to combat illegal activities of the WEEE recycling sites and the relevant information are set out below:

(1)&(2) It is an offence to dispose of hazardous WEEE at any premises not granted with a chemical waste disposal licence. The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) will take enforcement action against such offences. Currently, there are six premises that are granted chemical waste disposal licences under the WDO to treat hazardous WEEE. All of these licensed premises are not located within “Green Belt” or “Agriculture” zones.

     It is roughly estimated that around 150 open recycling sites are engaged in WEEE recycling across the territory. According to inspections conducted by the EPD, their operations generally do not involve the treatment of hazardous WEEE. These open recycling sites for WEEE are mainly located in Yuen Long and the North District.  Their operation, number and locations change from time to time and the number of sites that are located within "Green Belt" or "Agriculture" zones are thus uncertain.

(3) The Planning Department (PlanD) takes enforcement, control and prosecution actions against unauthorised development cases found in the rural New Territories (NT) under the Town Planning Ordinance, where the types of land use involved generally include car park, container related uses, storage and workshop, etc. Most of the WEEE recycling sites found in rural areas are used for waste storage and/or dismantling processes. Therefore, WEEE recycling sites are largely classified as storage and/or workshop uses in the enforcement of unauthorised development cases by the PlanD. In the past five years (2012 to 2016), the number of prosecution cases initiated by the Planning Authority against unauthorised developments involving storage and/or workshop uses in the Development Permission Areas in the rural NT was 120, with a total of 335 persons convicted.

(4) As for cases in which WEEE recycling sites were in violation of the WDO and the Waste Disposal (Chemical Waste) (General) Regulation, the EPD had completed 33 prosecutions in the past five years (2012 to 2016) and 12 persons were convicted.  The fines imposed ranged from $10,000 to $40,000 with a total amount of around $300,000.

(5)&(6) As mentioned above, hazardous WEEE such as computer monitors, LCD panels and dismantled PCBs are controlled under the WDO, and their import and export are subject to stringent permit control. Based on risk assessments and intelligence collected, the EPD collaborates with relevant departments to conduct inspections on container shipments at the boundary control points, and is vigilant in taking enforcement action against illegal shipment of hazardous WEEE. Importers of illegally-imported hazardous WEEE consignments are subject to prosecution, and container shipments of illegally-imported waste intercepted are returned to their places of origin. The EPD will also notify the relevant enforcement agencies concerned outside Hong Kong for follow-up action. Last year (2016), the EPD completed prosecutions of 24 cases of illegally-imported hazardous WEEE, of which 16 persons were convicted. The fines imposed ranged from $12,000 to $80,000 with a total amount of around $400,000.

     Since 2015, the EPD has stepped up inspections and enforcement actions against local WEEE recycling sites, and conducted about 530 inspections. In collaboration with the relevant departments, we have conducted a total of seven joint enforcement operations, in which prosecutions of eight cases were successfully completed. Enforcement actions against alleged violations of fire safety, land use and planning requirements were also taken by the relevant departments.

     To control movements of hazardous waste (including hazardous WEEE) between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Mainland, the EPD and Mainland enforcement agencies have established a standing cooperation arrangement on notification of hazardous waste movements and for reviewing the latest situations concerned. The EPD will continue to work closely with Mainland enforcement agencies on imposing stringent control over the import and export of waste, and enhancing the exchange of intelligence for tackling illegal treatment of hazardous WEEE at local recycling sites. The EPD will also liaise with overseas authorities to promote source interception against export of hazardous WEEE.
Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:30
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