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China to WTO: Scrap plastic imports banned by year-end

Clear the Air says: HKG Govt includes materials that arrive here from overseas countries, which are then re-exported to China, as ‘LOCAL RECYCLING’

In a previous China ‘OPERATION GREEN FENCE’ many containers of such import/re-export materials got stranded here and the ENB had to drastically republish its ‘local recycling rates’

Now we can see ‘OPERATION GREEN FENCE 11’ = ‘OPERATION NATIONAL SWORD 2017 ‘is imminent

Let’s see how this China initiative affects Hong Kong’s ‘local recycling’ rates where the Government relies on 80 year old scavengers as its recycling policy, which is to ship what they gather to China and sell it.

Hong Kong’s apathetic ENB has no PLAN A =source separation of waste and infrastructure to collect same, yet intends PLAN B =to charge for waste, without first enacting PLAN A, meaning recyclables will get tossed and charged for

We hope Christine LOH enjoys reuniting with the clean air of Santa Monica which has such recycling legislation, Green Bin free collection of food waste at kerb-side and a ZERO WASTE POLICY

Where is our ZERO WASTE Policy in Hong Kong ? well, it’s called an incinerator.

China told the World Trade Organization July 18 that it will ban imports of scrap plastics and other “foreign garbage” by the end of the year, officially taking a step that had been widely rumored in the industry.

The move drew quick criticism from a recycling industry trade group in the United States, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, which said it would be “devastating” to the global recycling industry and cost thousands of U.S. jobs.

ISRI said the ban would include most scrap plastics, including PET, PVC, polyethylene and polystyrene, as well as mixed papers and slag.

China’s government said it was taking the action to protect public health and the environment.

“We found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials,” China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a notification to WTO.

“This polluted the environment seriously.”

“To protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid waste list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted,” it said.

Washington-based ISRI said the move could cause severe economic harm in the United States.

“If implemented, a ban on scrap imports will result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and closure of many recycling businesses throughout the United States,” ISRI President Robin Weiner said in a statement.

ISRI immediately relayed its concerns to the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Commerce, and briefed U.S. officials ahead of the July 19 U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue in Washington.

The association said one-third of the scrap recycled in the United States is exported, with China being the largest market. That includes
1.42 million tons (3.1 billion pounds) of scrap plastics, worth an estimated $495 million, out of $5.6 billion in scrap commodities exported from the United States to China last year, it said.

“Recycled materials are key inputs into the production of new, usable commodities for the use in value-add production,” ISRI said. “The trade in specification-grade commodities — metals, paper and plastics — between the United States and China is of critical importance to the health and success of the U.S. based recycling industry.”

The step had been rumored. ISRI leaders said at a mid-June news conference, after returning from a trip to China, that there were serious rumors of a ban on scrap imports, starting with plastics. That echoed earlier comments from Chinese plastics industry officials.

In a related development, a Chinese plastics recycling group said that a month-long crackdown on plastics recyclers that began July 1 had resulted in inspecting 888 factories by July 14. That’s about half of the 1,792 factories licensed to import waste plastics.

The China Scrap Plastics Association said in its July 17 announcement that Chinese media were reporting that 590 of those factories were found to have rule violations, with 349 put under investigation for those violations.

It said with 383 factories had their production suspended and 53 were closed, and that factories with violations could have their import permits suspended for one year.

China’s WTO filing said the import ban on plastics would apply to products with HS codes 3915100000, 3915200000, 3915300000, 3915901000 and 3915909000.

Easterly wind spares Hong Kong from Pearl River Delta smog

City’s air to remain relatively clean despite heavy pollution in nearby Foshan, Shenzhen and Guangzhou

The severe smog enveloping the Pearl River Delta will not affect Hong Kong for now thanks to the favourable wind direction, a representative from an environmental group said.

Despite high concentrations of harmful pollutants recently recorded in nearby Foshan, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, which saw the air quality index hit the hazardous 300 benchmark in some areas, Hong Kong has been able to enjoy a breath of fresh air because the easterly wind currently blowing through the city does not pass through the smoggy areas.

But a government official said regional efforts were needed to maintain healthy air quality in the city as New Territories West was vulnerable to pollutants produced in the adjacent mainland industrial zone.

“We don’t exclude the possibility that the smog might be blown into Hong Kong under favourable conditions,” Clean Air Network campaign officer Winnie Tse Wing-lam said during a radio programme on Friday. “But will Hong Kong turn into a smoggy city like Foshan? I don’t think so.”

Tse said the city will continue to be controlled by the easterly wind in the next couple of weeks, while the severe smog mainly affects cities located to the northwest of Hong Kong.

This means the air brought to the city will be relatively fresh.

Speaking on the same radio programme, Mok Wai-chuen, assistant director of air policy at the government’s environmental protection department, said cooperation with mainland cities in the Pearl River Delta was necessary to improve the air quality in Hong Kong.

He said the government had been working with the Guangdong provincial government to set emission reduction targets, and both sides will review the results in the first quarter of this year.

Lower concentrations of harmful pollutants were recorded last year, including the tiny particulates that can penetrate deep into the lungs, but roadside-dominant nitrogen dioxide remains a headache for the city, with most figures failing annual air quality targets, according to preliminary air quality data for 2016 released by the department.

However, much of the decline was due to wetter, windier weather in what are traditionally two of the most polluted months, January and October, according to Dr Cheng Luk-ki, head of scientific research and conservation at Green Power.

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Something in the air: Is Hong Kong’s pollution problem worsening?

The government is trumpeting recent figures that show air pollution is significantly decreasing but is the news as good as it sounds? And what other forms of pollution should Hongkongers worry about?

Christie Tse and Joyce Au find out

“See the people walking by right now? Leisurely walking past, enjoying life, breathing the fresh air?” asks Dr Bob Tsui, vicechairman of NGO Clear The Air, as he points out his office window overlooking the streets of Jordan. You are being ‘attacked through your eyes, your cornea, your nostrils, your mouth and your skin” all the time, he follows up. As you’re reading this, tiny deadly pollution particles called magnetites are slowly moving up your nostrils, penetrating your brain tissue, nervous system and lungs. In a crowded, polluted city like Hong Kong, your body is constantly under attack, every second of every day according to Dr Tsui.

According to government statistics, though, air pollution has been decreasing for several years now. The Environmental Protection Department reckons that between 2011 and 2015, average concentrations of PM10, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide at roadside monitoring stations fell by 26 percent, 21 percent, 19 percent and 33 percent, respectively. The figures sound impressive and the government has been running adverts on TV trumpeting its success at clearing the air.

However, all is not rosy. Recent studies conducted by scientists in Mexico City have discovered a correlation between 100 and 200 nanometer magnetites released through the exhaust pipes of taxis and buses and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. This new information has sparked concern in the local scientific community since roadside pollution remains one of the leading causes of air pollution in our jam-packed city. “In the past 20 years, Hong Kong has not once met its own Air Quality Index standard or that of the World Health Organisation’s,” exclaims Patrick Fung, CEO of NGO Clean Air Network. Paul Zimmerman, Southern District councillor, believes this is unforgiveable, as ‘it’s almost like violence is around you the whole time’, he tells us.

And that’s not the half of it. You may think you can avoid pollution by simply turning recluse and staying at home, but you’d be very wrong.

Studies conducted at the University of Hong Kong reveal that our own kitchens discharge carcinogenic particles into the air every time food is made with vegetable oil. Dr Tsui states that vegetable oil is ‘the most dangerous oil you can use’ since it contributes to air pollution. Clear The Air has published an article that details the process by which vegetable oil, when subjected to high temperatures, oxidises into cancer causing chemicals. “People wonder how they get sick because they eat well all their lives,” Dr Tsui remarks, “but they don’t realise they’re constantly surrounded by these cancerous particles.”

The worst part of all of this is that the toxic kitchen discharge is completely preventable. According to Dr Tsui, the government has the ability and resources to go into restaurants and check their deep friers for dangerous particles.

“It’s a simple test strip and they can do it very easily,” he tells us. “But I have made this announcement for years and the government has not taken any action!” By placing steam jet filters in the kitchen stove, the carcinogenic particles could be released into water. This wouldn’t contaminate the water, according to Dr Tsui, because by the time the dangerous particles pass through the filter and hit the water, many things happen chemically to make the particles no longer harmful.

And cooking oil and air pollution are not the only worries we need have in Hong Kong. After the waves of rubbish that washed up on our beaches over the summer, Hongkongers should be acutely aware of the problem of landfill. Around 30 percent of landfill is made of Styrofoam and in 500 years, that same Styrofoam will still not have decomposed. What’s worse, Styrofoam is mainly composed of styrene, an extremely dangerous chemical that has been linked to cancer, vision and hearing loss, impaired memory and concentration, damage to the nervous systems and depression. “Styrene is dangerous,” Dr Tsui declares. “Styrene is vicious. Styrene should not exist in the food chain and yet, every restaurant [in Hong Kong] today still uses Styrofoam takeout boxes.” Worryingly, when we eat hot food or drink hot liquid from Styrofoam plates, boxes or cups, it’s possible for us to consume the styrene that leaches out of the hazardous material.

Once we’ve ingested these dangerous chemicals, they can swim into our bloodstreams, penetrate our organs and cause irrevocable damage to our bodies. Even Styrofoam that’s out in the ocean can ultimately affect us since when marine life, such as fish, consume it, styrene enters the food chain and eventually, Dr Tsui believes, ‘we’ll eat the darn thing’.

Dr Tsui asks: “How can the government be so blind and be so idiotic to allow this to go on?” Just as toxic kitchen discharges are preventable, so too is the use of Styrofoam. Not just in the food industry but all industries. Instead of using Styrofoam boxes for takeaway meals, companies should start using biodegradable containers, Clear The Air advocates. This minor innovation is also very much within the grasp of companies’ capabilities. Fibre generated from corn can be made to make the boxes and then coated in honey wax. Best of all, these resources are biodegradable.

Another solution that the government and corporations can consider implementing, according to Clear The Air, is changing the original chemical composition used to make Styrofoam. The government could order corporations to put titanium dioxide polymers in the Styrofoam so that once the material is dumped on landfill or into the ocean and exposed to UV light, the Styrofoam will disintegrate into carbon dioxide and water, which equates to less harmful pollution.

There are many little things we can do to contribute to a more environmentally friendly society, such as switching off the lights when we leave a room, turning off the air conditioner when we leave the house, adding insulated panels to our windows and attaching solar panels to our roofs. The list is endless. But while every little helps, these changes are too-little-too-late because, ultimately, it is up to our local authority to enact the kind of legislative reform required to make a real difference. As Dr Tsui so clearly puts it: “No matter how rich or how poor you are, you are subjected to this kind of invisible attack. The government needs to stop with the [political games] and start working on practical solutions to eradicate pollution-induced cancer.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to asking the government for help, every issue seems like an urgent matter. Compared to global threats such as deadly diseases like the zika virus or even more mundane local issues like affordable housing, the largely invisible problem of pollution is all too often pushed to the bottom of the list of priorities.

The public, not just the government, underestimate the drastic consequences of air contamination since the effects are not as apparent as many other similarly pressing matters. But pollution is an urgent problem because it surrounds us all. It’s in the air we breathe, the places we walk and the supposedly safe confines of our own homes. We live and breathe pollution whether we like it or not, so it’s about time we paid attention.

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Dutch activists sue government over air pollution

Dutch environmentalists said Tuesday they are suing the government over poor air quality, saying people’s “fundamental” rights to good health were being infringed.

In a lawsuit filed on Monday, the Milieudefensie group alleged “the Netherlands exceeds the legal standards for air quality and is violating fundamental human rights by doing too little to combat air pollution.”

“This pollution causes thousands of deaths every year, and leaves tens of thousands of people seriously ill. That is unacceptable,” added the group’s campaign manager, Anne Knol, in a statement.

The suit launched in The Hague is the first step in a lengthy process which could lead to a trial. The first hearing is due to be held on August 17.

Environmental activists say under the constitution “the state has a duty to protect citizens from unhealthy air.”

The group alleges that, in tests carried out at 58 sites across the country last year, the levels of nitrogen dioxide exceeded European norms in 11 places.

The indictment has been signed by 57 Dutch citizens, and the lawsuit has been launched after a crowd-funding campaign raised some 30,000 euros ($33,593) to cover the costs.

This latest action comes after another Dutch environmental rights group, Urgenda, last year won a landmark ruling ordering the government to slash greenhouse gases by a quarter by 2020.

Climate experts hailed the June 2015 ruling as “a milestone” in a case brought by 900 Dutch citizens seeking to force a national reduction of the emissions blamed for global warming. The government is appealing.

British gallery owner Mark Peaker makes an art out of Hong Kong’s idling engine law enforcement


Avid letter writer to the Post tells why he shows no mercy when it comes to drivers who leave their engines running

Former banker and now art gallery owner Mark Peaker attributes the success of both his careers to his jovial nature.

But there’s one group of people to whom the British-born Hongkonger shows no mercy – the city’s perennial engine idlers.

“It’s my biggest bugbear about Hong Kong – these belligerent drivers who clog up the roads and won’t turn their engines off,” Peaker, who owns gallery 3812 in Sai Ying Pun, says.

“It has caused a lot of ill will in Hong Kong but it would be such an easy problem to fix.”

As an avid letter writer to the South China Morning Post, “Mark Peaker from The Peak” is noted for his regular commentary and complaints on discourteous road etiquette, which remains unchanged despite a bill being introduced in 2011 penalising those who idle their engines.

A community man who has called the city home for more than 12 years, Peaker canvasses almost daily for better enforcement of the Motor Vehicle Idling Ordinance over the habit that is not only a nuisance to those navigating the tight streets, but also makes Hong Kong smog levels all the worse.

“When you first arrive in Hong Kong, you’re not part of the community and you don’t really get invested in this sort of thing but then you adapt to your environment,” he said.


Peaker said he struggles to understand why enforcement on the matter is so limp. He has acquired a certain degree of notoriety among officers for his querying their enforcement tactics, adding with an air of exasperation that they do not seem to approach the matter as assertively as they ought to.

“I saw an officer being yelled at by a driver who was idling his engine, and I went up to him and said, ‘Why can’t you get this guy to turn his engine off?’,” he says, describing how the officer gave the shrill response: “Because he won’t listen to me.”

Born in Cambridge to a diplomat father and stay-at-home mother, Peaker was brought up in well-to-do west London. He moved to Hong Kong at a time when he felt his career as a banker was coming to a close.

A man of good taste and a natural networker, he found himself drawn to the art world, deciding more than seven years ago to set up a gallery of contemporary art alongside his partner, art aficionado Calvin Hoi.

He says what drew him to the city – the diversity, the hustle and bustle, the cityscapes and energy – are qualities that have him still very much in love with Hong Kong, despite its problems.

“Hong Kong has always fascinated me, I’m an urban dweller at heart – and this place has a lot to offer everyone,” he says, describing how he also enjoys hosting ¬acting classes for students as part of his community work with NGO Shakespeare for all, alongside sketching workshops in a separate pro bono project.

“There are so many positives, it’s such a vibrant place, and sometimes we lose sight of that,” he adds.

Idling law has had ‘zero effect’ on pollution level

Peaker is not alone in his crusade against the scourge of idling engines across Hong Kong. Since 2006, 8,337 complaints about idling engines have been made to the Environmental Protection Department, the body tasked with penalising offending drivers.

Despite this, only 201 fines have been issued by the department since the Motor Vehicle Idling Ordinance came into operation in 2011. The number of fines amounts to just 4.4 per cent of complaints made since that year.

And at HK$320 a pop, many consider the fines to be ineffective deterrents.

“The fine is ridiculous, and the belligerent attitude of the drivers means a lot of the time police don’t even enforce the rules,” Peaker said.

But he thinks the Hongkongers who deserve the blame for the lines of chugging engines across the city are the well-to-do who require their drivers to wait endlessly for them to appear.

“They have this self-belief that they’re so important they’re above the law,” Peaker said, describing how on several occasions he had seen drivers ignore inspectors and police officers asking them to turn off their engines.

“I have emailed Central Police Station, CEOs, [my local council representative] Joseph Chan, as well as directly emailing companies whose drivers abuse the law and numerous schools where [students’] drivers park illegally, idling their engines waiting to pick up on their morning runs.”

He describes an email flow that spans years.

Environmental campaigner at Clear the Air, James Middleton, agrees that the ordinance can hardly be described as a success. He said it had had “zero” effect on pollution levels.
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Wong Kam Shing – GOLD BAUHINIA STAR, awarded for ……what ?

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Dr Judith Mackay, Clear the Air Patron, awarded Honorary Doctorate

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ENB Landfill Lies

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Law must make drinks firms pay for bottle waste, new Hong Kong green group says

The Green Earth is urging authorities to revisit an old pledge to introduce legislation on a ‘polluter pays’ scheme for plastic bottles

The city’s newest green group is urging authorities to revisit an old pledge to introduce legislation on a “polluter pays” scheme for plastic bottles.

The Green Earth said further delays to producer responsibility legislation would mean 132 tonnes, or five million PET plastic bottles, will continue to be disposed of every single day. The figure has nearly doubled from a decade ago.

“The previous administration set a road map for a PET plastic bottle producer responsibility scheme in place by 2008 but there’s been no news since,” said the group’s executive director Edwin Lau Che-feng. “If nothing is done now, the crisis will continue.”

The failure to implement such a scheme has meant about 12 billion bottles would have been disposed of since 2008 which Lau calculated would be “enough to circle the earth 58 times”. PET bottles take hundreds of years to fully decompose.

Lau urged the government to commence preliminary work on draft legislation such as business impact assessments to analyse how a charge on PET would affect or disrupt enterprises.

“[Beverage] producers have a corporate responsibility to bear some of the cost of all this waste given the profits they make,” said Lau. On the consumer side, he said the government could be doing more to promote plastic bottle recycling or adding more public water fountains.

A deposit scheme where consumers can get money back for returning bottles could also be worth considering.

A producer responsibility scheme requires manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers to share the responsibility for the collection, recycling, treatment and disposal of products to reduce environmental impact at the post-consumer stage.

Producer responsibility legislation is in place for plastic bags, certain waste electrical appliances and is under way for glass beverage containers.

The Environmental Protection Department said it would continue to examine whether it was necessary or appropriate to implement the scheme.
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