LCQ12: Treatment of recyclables

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Ngan Man-yu and a written reply by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):
     It has been reported that recently, after being collected and delivered to a recycler, some recyclables have not been further delivered to the recognized downstream recyclers for proper recycling. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of complaints received in the past three years by the Government about improper treatment of recyclables (including those against the collection points the operation of which had been commissioned by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the collection points operated by the private sector), together with the follow-up situations in relation to the relevant complaints;
(2) given that the EPD has launched since last year the one-stop reliable recycling service GREEN COLLECT to collect various recyclables which lack commercial recycling outlet (including plastics, glass bottles, small electrical appliances, fluorescent lamps and tubes, rechargeable batteries and regulated electrical equipment) and deliver them to downstream recyclers for proper treatment, whether the Government has assessed the effectiveness of such service and monitored the whereabouts of the recyclables concerned; and
(3) of the measures in place to ensure that recyclables collected from collection points will be delivered to recyclers for recycling or proper treatment; whether it will comprehensively review the relevant mechanisms, including (i) the mechanisms for disposing of, managing, recording and tracking recyclables, and (ii) the mechanisms for continuously monitoring and tracking the whereabouts of recyclables, with a view to ensuring the proper treatment of recyclables?
     Our reply to the question raised by the Hon Ngan is set out below:
(1) In the past three years, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) received two complaints against improper disposal of recyclables at GREEN@TIN HAU and GREEN@KWUN TONG in September 2021 and January 2023 respectively. The EPD was highly concerned about both incidents and initiated investigations to deal with them seriously.
     In September 2021, the operator of GREEN@TIN HAU admitted that its staff had disposed of some recyclables (polyfoam fruit protective nets) improperly once in the previous month. The EPD immediately issued a warning to the operator and, in accordance with the operating contract, deducted part of the service fee as penalty. The operator of GREEN@TIN HAU also punished the staff concerned and submitted a report on the incident with improvement measures proposed, including strengthening staff training on handling recyclables, with a view to preventing the recurrence of similar incidents. Meanwhile, the EPD reiterated to all operators of GREEN@COMMUNITY under its community recycling network that they had to ensure proper handling of all recyclables and no improper disposal would be allowed. Complete waste disposal records should also be maintained for inspection by, among others, EPD supervisory staff for keeping in view the overall performance of the recycling operation. The incident was partly caused by the lack of sufficient space and capacity in the workshop of GREEN@TIN HAU to handle a sudden surge in recyclables handed over by the public. In view of this, the EPD has advised operators of all Recycling Stores to implement an appointment system for receiving recyclables in a large quantity, so that Recycling Stores and members of the public can handle relevant recyclables in a timely and proper manner.
     In January 2023, as the operator of GREEN@KWUN TONG failed to prove that about three tonnes of beverage cartons collected at GREEN@KWUN TONG between April and December last year had been delivered, in accordance with the condition approved by the EPD, to the approved recycler (i.e. Mil Mill) via a third party. The EPD immediately instructed the operator of GREEN@KWUN TONG to deliver beverage cartons directly to Mil Mill for recycling instead of handing them over to the third party. The EPD also issued a warning to the operator and, in accordance with the operating contract, deducted part of the service fee and imposed a fine as penalty. The operator of GREEN@KWUN TONG extended apologies to the public and submitted an incident report with proposed improvement measures to ensure that the recyclables collected would be properly handled. The measures include strengthening staff training, reminding the staff to check carefully all delivery records of recyclables and conducting regular verification checks, etc. To avoid recurrence of similar incidents, the EPD has instructed all operators not to deliver recyclables through third parties, and that all recyclables collected should be delivered directly to the downstream recyclers approved by the EPD for proper recycling. Receipts issued by these recyclers should also be kept and produced for verification.       
(2) In mid-July last year, the EPD launched a brand-new one-stop reliable recycling service GREEN COLLECT in nine districts, namely Eastern District, Kwun Tong, Sha Tin, Central and Western District, Sham Shui Po, Tsuen Wan, Sai Kung, Tai Po and Tuen Mun. Under GREEN COLLECT, the operators of GREEN@COMMUNITY and EPD's contractors of recyclables collection services collect recyclables of low market value (including plastics, glass containers, rechargeable batteries, fluorescent lamps and tubes, small electrical appliances, and regulated electrical equipment, etc.) from participating housing estates to ensure the proper handling and recycling of these recyclables, thereby boosting the confidence of the public in participating in clean recycling. With the support from the Housing Authority and major property management organisations, GREEN COLLECT has been making satisfactory progress. Currently, over 730 housing estates (including both public and private housing estates) in the nine districts mentioned above have adopted the service, covering a population of around 3.1 million, which accounts for over 70 per cent of the total population in the nine districts. The quantities of recyclables collected are also increasing. As at end-November last year, over 2 000 tonnes of recyclables, mostly of low market value, were collected. The EPD will review the effectiveness of GREEN COLLECT and evaluate the experience gained in due course for consideration of extending the service to other districts.
     The waste plastics collected through GREEN COLLECT are handled together with other waste plastics collected by the respective contractors of the Plastics Recycling Pilot Scheme for the aforementioned nine districts. To ensure proper handling of the waste plastics collected, the contractors are required to implement a comprehensive monitoring plan, including the installation of Global Positioning System on collection vehicles, keeping of electronic records and installation of surveillance systems at processing plants. EPD staff will conduct inspections and spot checks to monitor the contractors' performance throughout various stages in the collection and processing of waste plastics. Calculation of the service fee payable to a contractor is also based on the quantity of the plastics raw materials generated upon recycling. For other recyclables, they are handled by the operators of GREEN@COMMUNITY according to the contractual requirements.
(3) In accordance with the service contracts, the recyclables collected by GREEN@COMMUNITY must be delivered by the operators to the downstream recyclers approved by the EPD for handling. The EPD requires all operators to submit monthly reports on the quantities of recyclables collected and the information of the approved downstream recyclers to which the recyclables are delivered. To ensure proper handling of recyclables, approval has to be obtained from the EPD for switching to a different downstream recycler. In addition, the EPD keeps monitoring the operators of its community recycling network and their operations. For downstream recyclers appointed by the EPD as contractors for recycling specified recyclables, such as waste glass containers, regulated electrical equipment, small household electrical appliances as well as fluorescent lamps and tubes, they are also required under the service contracts to properly handle the recyclables collected, and their service fees are calculated on the basis of the actual quantities recovered. Various measures are taken by the EPD to monitor the movements of the recyclables collected. For instance, contractors are required to keep and submit records of the recyclables collected, as well as receipts of the delivery of the processed materials and wastes. To ensure that the contractors properly handle recyclables in accordance with contractual requirements, EPD staff also conduct inspections at the recycling facilities and spot checks on their records, as well as monitor the contractors' collection fleets, etc. As for those recycling programmes (such as the one for rechargeable batteries) funded by the trade, the respective trade sectors would supervise and manage the programmes, and keep the relevant records. Regular inspections are conducted by both the trade and the EPD to ensure proper handling of the recyclables.

Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Issued at HKT 12:00