LCQ14: Implementation of clean recycling policy
In July last year, the General Office of the State Council promulgated the Implementation Plan on Advancing Reform of the Administration System on Import of Solid Wastes through Prohibiting Import of Foreign Rubbish (the Plan). Measures under the Plan include gradually and systematically reducing the types and quantities of imported solid waste, raising the threshold for importing solid waste, and banning the import of household waste plastics, unsorted waste paper, etc. To tie in with the Plan, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has launched a new round of clean recycling publicity and public education campaign earlier which focuses on educating the public to put "three types of waste paper and two types of waste plastic containers" into the waste separation bins placed in residences and workplaces, as well as those on roadside. The three types of waste paper include paperboard, newspapers and office papers, and the two types of waste plastic containers include plastic containers for beverages and those for personal care products. The EPD calls on the public to properly sort and tie up waste paper and rinse plastic containers before putting them into waste separation bins. Other types of waste paper and waste plastics should no longer be put into waste separation bins. Regarding the implementation of the clean recycling policy, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of rubbish bins and waste separation bins currently placed in public areas, with a breakdown by District Council district; (i) the quantities of the various types of waste collected through such waste separation bins, and among them, the respective quantities of those (ii) recycled and (iii) transferred to landfills/incinerators for disposal, in each of the past 12 months, with a breakdown by type of waste (including the waste that come under the category of three types of waste paper and two types of waste plastic containers and otherwise);
(2) whether, before the introduction of the clean recycling policy, the authorities had made reference to the experience of overseas countries or places in implementing relevant policies; if so, of the details;
(3) if the authorities have studied whether, after the implementation of the clean recycling policy, channels will be available for the recovery of waste that do not come under the category of three types of waste paper and two types of waste plastic containers; if recovery channels will be available, of the authorities’ measures to ensure that such waste will continue to be recovered for the purpose of recycling; if no recovery channels will be available, whether transfer to landfills for disposal is the only means to dispose of waste that do not come under the category of three types of waste paper and two types of waste plastic containers;
(4) whether the authorities have issued practice guidelines to recyclers so as to ensure that waste exported from Hong Kong to the Mainland will meet the new standards; if so, of the details;
(5) whether the authorities have plans to update the design of the existing waste separation bins and to provide rinsing facilities in the vicinity of the waste separation bins, so as to facilitate the public to properly rinse the two types of plastic containers before putting them into the bins; if so, of the details; and
(6) whether the authorities have (i) requested the management units and staff of premises (including public housing estates, private residential buildings, as well as commercial and industrial buildings) provided with waste separation bins to adopt measures that tie in with the implementation of the clean recycling policy, and (ii) made recommendations to the such units and staff regarding recycling facilities and the relevant publicity and education work; if so, of the details?
According to the Implementation Plan on Advancing Reform of the Administration System on Import of Solid Wastes through Prohibiting Import of Foreign Rubbish (the Plan) promulgated by the General Office of the State Council in July 2017, the Mainland will progressively tighten its import requirements on recyclables starting from January 2018, including a ban on the import of household waste plastics and unsorted waste paper. Given that currently over 90 per cent of locally generated waste paper and waste plastics are exported to the Mainland, in the light of these new requirements, we have to induce changes including behavourial ones in source separation of recyclables. This will not only help ensure that the three types of waste paper (namely paperboard, newspaper and office paper) recovered in Hong Kong and accepted by the Mainland for import will have an impurity rate not exceeding the new standard of 0.5 per cent, but also facilitate the turning of waste plastics into raw materials, with a view to meeting the latest Mainland requirements. Taking into account the above, the Government is striving to encourage participation by all in waste reduction at source, source separation of waste and clean recycling so as to reduce the chance of recyclables being contaminated or mixed with large amount of materials that are not suitable for recycling. Such contaminants will add difficulty to the recycling process or even render the whole batch of recyclables eventually discarded by landfill disposal. Meanwhile, the Government has been supporting the recycling industry in various aspects to enhance their capability and efficiency, thereby adding value to the industry and ensuring more stable and diverse outlets for locally generated recyclables.
Most recyclables locally recovered are waste paper and waste plastics generated by the commercial and industrial (C&I) sectors. Generally speaking, these recyclables are bulk in volume and centralised, with little variety in their materials, hence more cost effective in terms of the subsequent recycling process. The C&I sectors should thus continue to make direct arrangements with recyclers for handling these recyclables. For recyclables generated by the domestic sector, a relatively high proportion of the three types of paper and two types of plastic bottles (namely plastic beverage bottles and plastic bottles for personal care products) are disposed of at landfills. To engage the public to cope with the new challenges, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) will roll out a new round of publicity and public education campaign to promote waste reduction at source and clean recycling, with focus on encouraging the general public to practise source separation and clean recycling under the theme "clean recycling of three types of paper and priority recovery of two types of plastic bottles". Overall speaking, it is hoped that some 2 000 tonnes of the three types of paper can continued to be recovered daily, and the collection of waste plastic bottles, with current recovery rate of less than 10 per cent, can also be enhanced. While promoting waste reduction at source, we also call on the public to step up efforts in putting the three types of paper and the two types of plastic bottles for priority recovery into waste separation bins, keep them as clean as possible so as to promote the subsequent recycling process and identification of outlets.
At the community level, we will continue to press ahead with waste reduction at source. A waste reduction campaign on "Dump Less, Save More" has just been kicked off to instil the culture of "Use Less, Waste Less". The municipal solid waste (MSW) charging, to be implemented towards the end of 2019 at the earliest, will produce more financial incentives that will drive behavioural changes among our citizens, encouraging them to minimise waste generation and thereby reducing overall waste disposal.
My reply to the Hon Kwok's question is as follows:
(1) The Government currently provides some 2 800 sets of waste separation bins in public places (such as pavements, public transport interchanges, refuse collection points, parks, leisure and cultural facilities, etc, not including country parks). The distribution of waste separation bins in public places among the 18 districts as at December 2016 is at Annex. Up to December 2016, these bins in the 18 districts collected about 400 tonnes of waste paper, 700 tonnes of waste plastics and 40 tonnes of waste metal, and around half of the collected materials (mainly three types of paper and two types of plastic bottles) became recyclables after segregation. The Government did not compile any statistics on the recyclables so collected and the disposable materials by month, by district or by the three types of paper and two types of plastic bottles. The figures in 2017 are still being compiled.
In addition, the some 1 500 sets of waste separation bins placed in country parks by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) collected in 2016 a total of about 18 tonnes of recyclables, including waste paper, waste plastics and waste metal. To tie in with the "Take Your Litter Home" public education programme launched in country parks since 2015, the AFCD also removed all litter bins and waste separation bins along the hiking trails in country parks in late 2017, thereby encouraging the public to take their litter home after visiting country parks.
(2) The Government has been monitoring the latest market situation of recyclables and maintaining contact with recyclers to ensure that the Government’s publicity strategies on clean recycling and other industry supportive measures, such as the Recycling Fund, will be adjusted in a timely manner to better meet the needs of our community and the recycling industry. We understand that other countries or regions, based on the latest development of recyclables market and their own actual circumstances, are also proactively exploring various initiatives and strategies, including stepping up waste reduction at source, enhancing the quality of recyclables, and encouraging domestic industries to absorb part of the locally generated recyclables more effectively. The directions of these initiatives are broadly similar to ours.
(3) As abovementioned, the C&I sectors should continue to make direct arrangements with recyclers for handling waste paper and waste plastics generated by these sources.
With respect to the Mainland market, due to the more stringent requirements for import of recyclables, waste paper recovered in Hong Kong, other than the three types of paper, is not suitable for recycling and exporting to the Mainland currently. That said, books and magazines having their laminated or waxed covers and inner pages torn off can generally be recycled as newspaper. The quantity of the three types of paper recovered roughly represents 80 per cent of all waste paper recovered. Moreover, for those waste paper disposed of at landfills, about half of them belong to the three types of paper. If we can enhance their separation and recycling, the local recovery rate of paper can be increased.
Certain types of waste plastics are of low recycling efficiency. Nevertheless, waste plastic bottles are more common and have a higher recycling value, but their current recovery rate is rather low, roughly speaking about one out of ten plastic bottles is separated and recycled by the public. The new round of clean recycling publicity campaign launched by the Government aims to, amongst others, enhance the recovery rate at various collection points of plastic bottles from household sources and increase the possibility of securing outlets for them. If the public store some clean and separated suitable waste plastics that are not bottle-shaped, and provided that these waste plastics have feasible outlets, the public may consider delivering them to Community Green Stations (CGSs) which will accumulate them and endeavour to identify suitable recyclers for proper onward processing and conversion into resources.
By organising public education activities such as workshops, the CGSs also help to disseminate relevant information and educate the public on how to practise clean recycling with priority on three types of paper and two types of plastic bottles.
The C&I sectors should continue to make direct arrangements with recyclers for their waste plastics, which represent the majority of waste plastics recovered.
(4) The Mainland authorities have promulgated new standards for recyclables to be imported to the Mainland. The EPD has all along maintained close liaison with recyclers and other relevant testing bodies to help enhance their understanding of the latest requirements for due compliance.
(5) The Steering Group on the Modification of Recycling and Refuse Collection Facilities in Public Places (the Steering Group) set up by the Environment Bureau in February 2016 is currently reviewing the designs of waste separation bins in public places and will advise on new designs. The Steering Group has thus commissioned a consultancy study under which the consultant will set the design direction and identify matters of concern, taking account of the latest recycling arrangements and the views collected from various stakeholders via a public engagement exercise.
(6) The EPD has maintained frequent communication with housing estates and residential buildings that have joined the Programme on Source Separation of Waste, property management companies and the Housing Department, to provide assistance in source separation of waste and clean recycling. On publicity and public education, we will disseminate latest information on clean recycling via channels such as Announcements of Public Interest, CGSs, the EPD website on Hong Kong Waste Reduction, the "Waste Less" app and other social media.
In addition, a new outreach team will be set up under the EPD to help drive behavioural change comprehensively and directly in the community towards better and more widespread waste reduction and recycling practices. Through strengthened field support, one of the team's priority tasks is to assist property management companies and residents in practising proper source separation of waste and clean recycling, seeking feasible outlets for recyclables and implementing the forthcoming quantity-based MSW charging.
Ends/Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Issued at HKT 15:17
Issued at HKT 15:17