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LCQ3: Recycling Fund
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Lo Wai-kwok and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (June 21):


     The Recycling Fund, established by the Government with an allocation of $1 billion, has been open since October 2015 for application by recyclers for subsidies for enhancing their operational capabilities and efficiency. However, some recyclers have relayed to me that the application for subsidies involves rather high administration fees and complicated procedure. Although the authorities have streamlined the procedure for the application for subsidies by small and medium-sized recycling enterprises for the implementation of small-scale standard projects, the situation has not significantly improved. Besides, while the Government will implement the municipal solid waste (MSW) charging scheme in the second half of 2019 at the earliest, there are not enough waste separation and recycling facilities in the community. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of applications received by the authorities since the procedure for application for subsidies under the Recycling Fund was streamlined, as well as the percentage of applications approved and the total amount of subsidies involved; how such figures compare with those in the past; whether the authorities will formulate measures to further facilitate the submission of applications by recycling enterprises; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether the authorities will consider placing food waste processors and different types of recycling bins in various public housing estates, and subsidising private housing estates to purchase waste recycling facilities, so as to complement the MSW charging scheme better; whether the authorities will implement public education to encourage members of the public to develop the habit of separating and recycling waste; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) as some recyclers have relayed that at present there is not any credible and independent organisation to provide the trade with technical support and services such as consultation and certification audits, whether the authorities will, in response to the trade's aspirations, consider setting up a centre for industrialisation and development of environmental protection technologies; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Recycling Fund (the Fund) established by the Government aims to promote the recovery and recycling of resources and waste by facilitating the recycling industry to upgrade its operational capabilities and efficiency for its sustainable development. Since the launch of the Fund in October 2015, the Advisory Committee on Recycling Fund (RFAC) and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) have kept under review at suitable time the operation of the Fund in the light of market conditions as well as the views of applicants and stakeholders. As at the end of May 2017, the RFAC has approved 85 applications, amounting to over $70 million of funding in total.

     My reply to the Hon Lo's question is as follows:

(1) The EPD and the RFAC have been striving to enhance the operation of the Fund so that it will better address the needs of the industry and its sustainable development. Without compromising the need in safeguarding the use of public money and maintaining effective control on applicants, RFAC has introduced various facilitation measures since the Fund's early stage of operation. Firstly, to minimise the administrative workload of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in making applications, a category of Small-scale Standard Projects (SSPs) has been established under the Enterprise Support Programme. The SMEs undertaking SSPs may submit applications, report achievements and seek reimbursements in accordance with a set of streamlined procedures. Besides, the RFAC has approved the waiving of a condition on opening a designated project bank account for SSPs.

     To further enhance the operation of the Fund, the RFAC agreed in December 2016 to introduce a new series of facilitation measures which include: (i) provision of partial reimbursement of expenses midway through the project period of SSPs; (ii) establishment of a new category of SSPs to facilitate recyclers to procure equipment for efficiency upgrading or for minimising nuisances to the neighbourhood; and (iii) counting, as fundable items, the cost for third-party liability insurance and a portion of the rental expenses required for carrying out additional recycling business or activities.

     As at end December 2016, a total of 68 SSP applications have been received since the operation of the Fund. In respect of the new series of facilitation measures, the recycling industry's responses have been positive. The Secretariat of the Fund has received a total of 103 applications during January to May 2017 under the new category of SSPs. Most of the applications have been submitted for the procurement of equipment for efficiency upgrading. To date, the RFAC has approved 38 such applications and rejected one of them. The applicants of 19 applications have withdrawn their cases with a view to refining the application details and resubmitting them in future. The remaining 45 applications are being assessed.

     Separately, the RFAC is considering the introduction of specific solicitation themes to invite relevant applications within a designated period. To better address the actual needs and development trend of the recycling industry, the themes will be devised based on various factors, including the scope of the Fund and the needs of the industry. For instance, phase 1 of the Organic Resources Recovery Centre (ORRC) is expected to be in operation upon completion of testing in the second half of 2017.  Depending on the actual situation, needs and response from the recycling industry, the Committee may consider a solicitation theme on food waste recycling after the completion of testing of ORRC with an aim to enhance the operation efficiency of food waste recyclers.

(2) To promote recycling as part of our overall waste management strategy and better prepare the community for the future MSW charging, the EPD has obtained support from the Environmental Campaign Committee (ECC) and will increase the number of free recycling bins to be provided to private housing estates and commercial and industrial (C&I) buildings under the Source Separation of Waste Programme. Under the new arrangements, which are expected to take effect in the second half of 2017, as long as applicants (estates or buildings) are able to demonstrate that the additional recycling bins are to be placed at suitable common areas to encourage recycling, we will provide such number of sets of bins as they think necessary. In addition to the provision of 3-coloured waste separation bins for collecting waste paper, plastics and metals, various types of recycle bins have been provided at suitable locations in communities and residential estates under various waste reduction programmes of EPD for collecting glass beverage bottles, electrical and electronic equipment, rechargeable batteries, fluorescent lamps.

     The EPD has collaborated with the ECC to promote clean recycling since 2015 to increase the quality, quantity and value of recyclables, thereby recovering more useful resources. To step up publicity efforts on promoting source separation of waste and clean recycling to the public, we have also established the Community Recycling Network covering many districts of the territory and developed Community Green Stations. Through organising item recycling and exchanging functions and educational activities, we aim at raising the awareness of recycling in all walks of life and encouraging the public to get involved in waste reduction and recycling.

     As regards public housing estates, the Housing Authority (HA) currently places recycling bins in each public residential building, shopping centre and market under its management to promote source separation of waste. In respect of food waste recycling, the HA will first encourage the C&I sectors to recycle and handle food waste properly in line with the Government's policy. In collaboration with the EPD as well as the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the HA will also deliver the food waste generated from some markets and shopping centres under its management to the ORRC-1, which will be commissioned at the end of this year. The HA has no plan to place food waste processors in public housing estates to handle household food waste at this stage.

(3) The Government attaches an importance to the sustainable development of the local recycling industry, and has implemented a series of initiatives to support the industry.  Key initiatives include promoting source separation of waste to increase the quality and quantities of recyclables; developing the EcoPark to provide long-term land at an affordable price to recyclers; providing dedicated short-term tenancy sites for recyclers' operations; and adopting a green procurement policy within the Government to increase market demand for recycled products.

     In respect of supporting the recycling industry's operation, the Fund has subsidised the Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC) to implement a scheme to improve the industry's OSH standards. The Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency (HKQAA) and the Hong Kong Baptist University are compiling operation guidelines on handling recyclables and providing related training. As regards certification and related registration systems, while HKQAA has introduced a scheme, namely Hong Kong Registration – Recycling Services, it is also developing a Food Waste Recycling Registration Scheme. In addition, EPD has been implementing a "Waste Cooking Oils" Recycling Administrative Registration Scheme for the registration of collectors and recyclers of waste cooking oil. Separately, individual enterprise of the industry can also hire accreditation agencies to carry out audits or apply for various certification, and necessary funding support may be sought from the Fund. In relation to consultation with the industry, the RFAC and EPD have been maintaining close communications with the industry regarding difference aspects of policies and measures in waste management, waste reduction and recycling. Through various channels like meetings, seminars and briefing sessions, we actively consult the industry and response to the views and requests of the industry.

     Given that the above initiatives have promoted the sustainable development of the recycling sector in respect of industry support, consultation and certification/audits, the Government at this stage has no plan to establish a centre for industrialisation and development of environmental protection technologies as mentioned in the question.

     Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:52
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