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May 6th, 2015:

Fund designed to help HK’s recycling trade upgrade its practices

I write to refute Tom Yam’s letter (“Three-colour recycle bins are window dressing and a sham”, April 3).

Mr Yam opines since the territory’s roadside three-colour recycle bins only collect 700 tonnes of recyclables a year – a minute quantity of Hong Kong’s total municipal solid waste – our recycling efforts are window dressing.

He is wrong. While roadside bins are highly visible, they are not where the bulk of Hong Kong’s recyclables are collected. Recyclables are mainly collected from residential estates and commercial properties – 80 per cent of our population can access non-roadside recycle bins close to where they live and work. Moreover, many recyclables are sold to the recyclers directly without going through the recycle bins system.

He also says we admitted our previous recycling data was wrong. In fact, we commissioned a study when we noticed a substantial change in the estimated recovery rate of wastes in 2012 due to unusual fluctuation in “domestic export” figures on waste plastics. The study concluded that the estimation method remained the most appropriate for Hong Kong, and since then we have also strengthened the verification work when compiling the relevant export figures.

Surprisingly, he attacks our district community green stations and public education plans as “handouts to pro-government groups”. The facts do not support his allegation since open tenders are held.

Perhaps the crux of his complaint is the lack of an “indigenous recycling industry” and no law to require waste separation.

Hong Kong has a recycling industry mainly focused on collection. A locally based re-manufacturing industry is difficult as land is scarce and pricey, which is why the bulk of our recyclables is sent to the mainland.

Mr Yam also alleges our HK$1 billion Recycling Fund is more window dressing. The fund, awaiting Legislative Council approval, is designed to help the recycling trade to upgrade its practices so greater quantities can be collected or even processed in Hong Kong.

As for Hong Kong not yet legislating to mandate waste separation, similar to the steps of various advanced cities, we need to strengthen our waste infrastructure, including putting waste charging in place before considering a waste separation law.

Our determination to implement our 10-year waste-to-resource blueprint published in 2013 can be seen from the large number of initiatives on the table. Among others, we will soon launch the new clean recycling campaign with a view to increasing the value and recovery rate of recyclables.

Wong Hon-meng, assistant director of environmental protection

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