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Hong Kong government launches HK$1b recycling fund, but industry figures have doubts about its effectiveness

Ernest Kao

But industry figures have doubts about the effectiveness of the scheme

Applications have opened for the government’s HK$1 billion recycling fund, with the first batch of grants set to be handed out to successful applicants in March.

Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing said the fund, announced in last year’s policy address and approved by the legislature in July, would help increase the quantity and quality of recyclables in the market and reduce pressure on the city’s overflowing landfills.

“The purpose of the fund is to support the healthy and sustainable development of the recycling industry and market,” Wong said at the launch yesterday.

The deadline for applications for the first batch is November 30.

The fund comprises two programmes – a matching fund for individual enterprises to upgrade and expand their waste recycling operations in which a HK$1of funding is provided for every HK$1 invested, and another targeted at non-profit and trade support organisations to “enhance the overall capability and productivity of the local recycling industry”.

The former offers grants equivalent to 50 per cent of approved expenditure for a two-year period for up to three projects with cumulative funding of HK$5 million. The latter offers 100 per cent grants with a cap set at HK$15 million.

Under the enterprise support programme, small and medium-sized recycling businesses can also apply for subsidies for smaller scale projects such as manpower training and occupational safety. These grants, requiring “less paperwork”, will be capped at HK$150,000 for a one-year project.

Scrap plastic recycler Lee Wai-man said he would apply for both programmes, but the biggest problem was not a lack of machinery but rising rents, a lack of land and a shrinking labour market.

“Sure you can give us a few million dollars to buy some fancy new machinery but in a few years our rents will soar,” he said. “My youngest employee is 47 years old and will probably quit in a few years. Who am I going to train with this money?”

Jacky Lau Yiu-shing, director of the Recycled Materials and Reproduction Business General Association, had earlier said that falling prices of plastic as a result of an economic slowdown and declining oil prices had caused frontline recyclers to stop collecting the material.

“We may have the machinery and processing capability, but we don’t have the stock,” he said.

Jimmy Kwok Chun-wah, who chairs the newly set up advisory committee to manage the fund, said it would be difficult to provide subsidies from the fund to prop up the prices of recyclables in the market. “There’s no way the fund can offer this right now as the prices of recyclables in the market will always be fluctuating,” he said.

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