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LCQ8: Supporting local recycling industry
     Following is a question by the Hon Martin Liao and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (October 25):


     In an ongoing bid to promote ecological civilisation, our country promulgated in July this year the Implementation Plan on Advancing Reform of the Administration System on Import of Solid Wastes through Prohibiting Import of Foreign Rubbish, which stipulates that it will impose, by the end of 2017, a total ban on the imports of solid waste that cause great environmental damage and raise strong public concerns, and will phase out, by the end of 2019, the imports of solid waste that can be replaced by domestic resources. It has been reported that the Mainland authorities have notified the World Trade Organization that they will no longer import 24 types of waste from overseas by the end of this year. The local recycling industry, which has all along been heavily dependent on the Mainland market, is bound to bear the brunt of the blow. There are also voices from the community expressing worries that if local recyclables cannot be exported to the Mainland, it will create additional pressure on the already overloaded landfills in Hong Kong and even lead to a chaotic situation of "the city being surrounded by garbage". In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as the Secretary for the Environment has indicated that the relevant incident will bring both "risks" and "opportunities" to Hong Kong which should make the most of this favourable circumstance to turn risks into opportunities, of the details of the "risks" and "opportunities" referred to by the authorities and the measures taken by the authorities to tackle the issue;

(2) as the authorities have indicated that they will incubate and support the development of environmental recycling industry for more efficient use of locally generated recyclables, as well as progressively increase the quantity of recyclables that can be handled locally, of the details of such initiatives; apart from rendering assistance, as mentioned by the authorities earlier, to the local recycling industry in the reuse of locally recycled waste plastics for manufacturing degradable plastic bags to be used in huge quantities under the waste charging scheme, whether they have formulated other specific plans which can achieve that policy objective; whether they have set a percentage of locally generated waste to be absorbed by the local recycling industry, and a target of making use of such an opportunity to boost the growth of Hong Kong's environmental protection industries; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) whether the authorities will at the same time devise new policies and measures in respect of the import and re-export of waste from overseas (commonly known as "foreign rubbish") to and from Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The local recycling industry plays a very important role in the overall waste management system in Hong Kong. The recycling industry has been progressively evolving as society develops, and the government has been dedicated to supporting the industry to enhance its capability and efficiency as well as creating more value for the industry, thereby facilitating more stable and diverse outlets for local recyclables and reducing the need for landfill disposal.

(1) In accordance with the Implementation Plan on Advancing Reform of the Administration System on Import of Solid Wastes through Prohibiting Import of Foreign Rubbish (the Plan) promulgated on July 18, 2017, the Mainland authorities will, starting from early next year, phase in more stringent requirements on the import of recyclables. The move will have more impact on recyclers of waste paper and waste plastics in Hong Kong. Taking a multi-pronged approach, the Government will help the recycling industry adapt to the latest Mainland policies, thereby turning the new situation into opportunity.

     Key initiatives taken forward by the Government to support the development of the recycling industry are at Annex, which includes new initiatives to enhance source separation of waste and clean recycling as mentioned in the Chief Executive's Policy Address this year. For example, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) will establish new outreaching teams and kick off a new round of publicity and education campaign, with a view to enhancing the recyclability and recycling value of recyclables. The EPD will also strengthen cooperation with non-governmental organisations and relevant stakeholders to actively support the recycling of low-value recyclables in the community and implement the central collection of waste plastic bottles, in order to enhance the cost effectiveness of handling the relevant recyclables. On another front, the Recycling Fund has in recent months launched a new funding scheme, which will encourage the trade to process their recyclables to a standard that meets the new import requirements of the Mainland. The EPD together with the Advisory Committee on Recycling Fund will continue to liaise with the industry and take forward more initiatives to support the recycling industry in its upgrading and transformation. In addition, the waste management policies to be promulgated by the Government, such as the municipal solid waste (MSW) charging, will enlarge the supply of recyclables for the recycling industry, bringing new opportunities to the industry and windows for new green businesses.

(2) We will study the feasibility of incubating a local manufacturing industry using recycled materials, thereby exploring more effective and diversified outlets for recycled materials as well as reducing reliance on export to dispose of recyclables. We are examining how to leverage on the land and ancillary facilities at the EcoPark, so as to support the development of a local manufacturing industry using recycled materials. As waste paper makes up the largest proportion of local recyclables, the development of a recycling industry capable of processing local waste paper is currently accorded priority.

     Besides, it is estimated that the designated garbage bags to be used under the MSW charging scheme will contain 50 per cent recycled materials. In order to provide more channels to recycle local plastics, we will actively study using local waste plastic recyclables as part of the raw materials for production of designated garbage bags, and plan to require manufacturers to produce designated garbage bags domestically as far as possible, so as to support the development of the local manufacturing industry using recycled materials.

     We will encourage the local manufacturing industry using recycled materials to enhance its absorption of locally generated recyclables. We have yet to develop plans to set indicators for the relevant amount.

(3) Under the Waste Disposal Ordinance, the import and export of non-hazardous recyclables for recycling purpose is allowed. However, the import of waste, including foreign domestic waste (commonly known as "foreign rubbish"), for disposal in Hong Kong is illegal. The EPD and the Customs and Excise Department have been monitoring these activities based on a risk assessment approach, and conduct random inspections on container shipments of imported recyclables. For all containers selected for inspection, the EPD requires importers to provide relevant information in order to verify whether the imported recyclables are for recycling locally or for onwards re-export to other places. For those cases that are imported for recycling locally, the EPD would conduct random inspections on the local recycling facilities. As regards container shipments of imported recyclables intended for re-export, the EPD monitors their movements until they are shipped out of Hong Kong to ensure that no imported recyclables are stranded or disposed of locally. When illegal containers of imported recyclables are found, they will be returned to their place of origin immediately and notify the relevant foreign enforcement department for follow up actions, as well as take enforcement actions against the illegal importers. We will review from time to time the existing measures and practices, which will be enhanced or refined timely. For example, with respect to the producer responsibility scheme (PRS) on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) to be implemented later, we will introduce import and export permit control, where an import and export permit is issued only when it is satisfied that the concerned WEEE will be handled properly by local facilities holding relevant waste disposal licences. We will also introduce similar control under the PRS on glass beverage containers.
Ends/Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:50
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