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Waste Management

How big data and covert surveillance are helping tackle Hong Kong’s problem of illegal dumping

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Waste disposal charge will cost a typical Hong Kong family HK$51 a month

Environment minister reveals range of fees intended to meet target of a 40 per cent reduction in household waste by 2022

Hong Kong’s households will have to shell out around HK$33 to HK$51 a month to dispose of their rubbish when a long-awaited quantity-based charging scheme designed to change behaviour and reduce waste comes into force in two years.

Environment minister Wong Kam-sing said on Monday that charges for municipal solid waste – rubbish generated from homes, offices, factories and restaurants, a third of which comes from kitchens – would be imposed on all sectors in one go for the sake of fairness and in line with the “polluter pays” principle.

“Quantity-based waste charging aims to create financial incentives to drive behavioural changes in waste generation,” Wong said. “The biggest aim is to reduce overall waste disposal, not to increase government revenues.”

Residential buildings, village houses and street-level shops that use government refuse collection services will be required to buy one of nine types of rubbish bags of varying size, priced at an average 11 cents per litre. The charge will be 30 cents for the smallest, 3-litre bag, while the biggest 100-litre bag will cost HK$11.

A three-person household opting for the standard 15-litre bag – roughly the same size as a supermarket plastic bag – will pay about HK$1.70 a time, running a tab of about HK$51 per month. It will cost HK$1.10,or HK$33 per month, for 10-litre bags.

Oversized items that cannot fit into any of the nine designated bags must be tagged with a label that costs HK$11 for disposal.

Sold in packs of 10, the bags will be available at 4,000 sales points, including convenience stores, post offices, petrol stations and special vending machines.

Commercial and industrial buildings using private collection services will pay a landfill “gate fee”, based on the weight of the rubbish they produce. The tip fees will be set between HK$365 and HK$395 per tonne.

Details of the charging scheme were revealed by the Environmental Protection Department on Monday after years of public engagement. A bill will be tabled at the Legislative Council before the summer and, following its passage, the public will be given 12 to 18 months to prepare for the charging scheme. Full implementation is expected in the second half of 2019.

The average Hongkonger throws out about 1.39kg of household waste per day. A target was set in 2014 to slash that figure by 40 per cent by 2022. Wong said the city’s municipal solid waste had increased by over 80 per cent over the past 30 years, far outpacing the population growth of 34 per cent.

He said the government would step up enforcement at refuse collection stations and bin sites. Legislation could also empower public officers to carry out enforcement and spot checks within common areas of private residential estates.


Fixed penalties for non-compliance have been set at HK$1,500.

Wong said the charges – which will be in place for three years – were “acceptable” and in line with practices in Taipei City and Seoul, both of which have seen significant waste reduction since levies were introduced.

World Green Organisation policy advocacy manager Angus Wong Chun-yin welcomed the scheme but said the departments involved would need to be clearer about how to divide labour and monitor and carry out enforcement in estates. “It still seems a bit clumsy,” he said.

Greeners Action executive director Angus Ho Hon-wai said the charging scheme’s impact would be greater if rates were set higher.

“At this rate, I believe it will be difficult for the government to meet the 2022 waste targets,” he said.

“But as a starting point, we can acquiesce.”

He said the government also needed to consider how property management companies of commercial buildings will divide tip fee costs equitably among tenants.

“What if I produce very little waste, why should I help pay for others? This is something they will need to think about.”
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Filipino Barangays – Leading the Way in Zero Waste Models

Communities in the Philippines that were once riddled with trash are being recognized for their revolutionary zero waste models. By implementing a combination of effective policy advocacy, powerful grassroots organizing, and meaningful community education on ecological waste management, these communities decreased their waste in landfills, generated more jobs, and enhanced community safety. In this year’s celebration of the Zero Waste Month, these communities were the esteemed destinations of international delegates wanting to learn about innovative models.

Beginning with a presidential decree in 2014, Zero Waste Month is celebrated in the Philippines every January. This year, organizers invited foreign speakers to tour the barangays, or villages, of Potrero (Malabon City) and Fort Bonifacio (Taguig City) and the City of San Fernando (Pampanga)—communities that have successfully implemented innovative zero waste policies and models.

The policy adopted by these barangays was the RA 9003, a decentralization law that devolves solid waste management down to the barangay level. It mandates source segregation, segregated collection, and segregated destination of waste and the establishment of a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in every barangay or cluster of barangays.

Implementing ecological solid waste management was no easy task, but the barangays partnered with Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) in implementing the law. With MEF training and guidance, barangays established MRFs and strictly enforced ‘no segregation, no collection’ policy. They tapped waste pickers to conduct door-to-door segregated collection from every household, and also encouraged residents to compost their biodegradable waste.

These strategies combined resulted in significant reduction of garbage ending in landfills or dumpsites. In the first year of implementation, for example, Barangay Potrero diverted 80% of its solid waste from landfills through composting and recycling, resulting in daily savings of Php15,000 from hauling and tipping fees.

The ecological management of solid waste also generated jobs for the waste workers. In Potrero, 65 jobs were generated, benefitting the informal waste workers who later became authorized garbage collectors or monitoring staff for the daily collection of waste. Fort Bonifacio was able to employ 23 residents as official community organizers, solid waste liaison officers, and barangay collectors. The barangay collectors, most of whom earned P50 per day as informal waste collectors before the project started, now earn a minimum monthly salary of P8,000 plus all the proceeds from the sale of recyclables divided among themselves.

The project also enhanced community safety. The once unsightly streets of Potrero and Fort Bonifacio which were also sites for petty crimes, now house materials recovery facilities with mini-eco parks complete with gardens and an eco-store.

“These show that for ecological waste management, local governments do not need expensive, high-tech, and harmful waste disposal technologies that adversely affect public health and the environment, destroy much needed finite resources, cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and are unsustainable and end-of-pipe solutions,” shared Sonia Mendoza, chairman of Mother Earth Foundation.

Bannered by the theme, “On the Road to Zero Waste,” the eco-tour was organized by the Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

This blog was written by Sherma Benosa, Communication Officer for GAIA Asia Pacific.

Study tour to the Basque Country

The study tour started with an event organised by Zero Waste Europe and the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) in Vitoria-Gasteiz on 28 November. It consisted of an international conference focused on the reduction of costs in waste management for municipalities through the optimisation of separate collection, the reduction of residual waste and the transformation of these fraction into market products. Javier Garaizar, Vice-rector of the Campus of Álava of UPV/EHU opened the conference, followed by Ainhoa Etxeandia, Director of Environment of Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council. Their interventions were followed by Joan Marc Simon, Ferran Rosa, Enzo Favoino, Marco Mattiello, Kevin Curran, Nekane Artola and Ainhoa Arrozpide.

48 participants attended the conference, among which we found civil servants, representatives from companies and environmental consultancies, policy-makers, professors and students of the university, etc. The presentations can be found here.

The afternoon was used to get to know the situation regarding waste management in Vitoria-Gasteiz, thanks to the Zero Waste group Gasteiz Zero Zabor.

The 29 and 30 November were devoted to the tour of good practices of waste management and circular economy. The tour allowed visiting municipalities and counties that have experienced a significant improvement in their separate collection systems. Among these experiences, the tour visited small villages like Leintz Gatzaga or Elburgo that collect and treat bio-waste in the same municipality. The participants also visited the counties of Debagoiena and Sasieta to better know about their waste collection systems (door-to-door, roadside containers with chip or mixed systems) that have made the municipalities in these counties reach 70% and 80% separate collection or more.

On top of the good practices of waste management, the tour visited good practices on circular economy. In this sense, several companies were visited in sectors like gastronomy, fashion or remanufacturing.

At the Restaurant Azurmendi of Eneko Atxa, with a three-Michelin-stars Basque chef, the participants learned about the philosophy of the project and visited the facilities. After this visit, an excellent meal was provided and the participants could learn about the way they manage the bio-waste at the restaurants. Gurpide Elkartea, an association working for the municipality of Larrabetzuko, manages the bio-waste of Azurmendi and of the neighbours of the municipality. In Larrabetzuko they follow the ‘Austrian system’ of composting that involves local farmers in the treatment of bio-waste in decentralised composting sites. This reduces the cost for the municipality, while allow the local farmer to obtain an extra income and have access to good quality compost.

Not far from there, in Zamundio, Cristina Cendoya and Mikel Feijoo of Skunkfunk presented the philosophy of the company and the design of the collection Capsule Zero Waste. After that, the tour went to a facility of the social economy company Koopera where they sort 18,000 tn a year of clothes.

In a totally different sector, the tour also visited Rebattery, a company located in Bergara that remanufactures and recovers batteries. Rebattery manages to give a new life to 60-75% of the batteries they receive and place them again in the market.

The three-day study tour was not only interesting, but the living proof of the current initiatives of circular economy in the Basque Country and the potential for these activities to keep growing. The tour managed to successfully illustrate best practices through all the economic cycle.

Waste management problems are getting worse in Hong Kong

Rarely has an organisation performed as miserably, every year, as the Environmental Protection Department in its waste management programme.

Its failure was highlighted in reports by the Audit Commission and the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee last year. Predictably, the department’s latest waste management report, for 2015, is no different.

Its two major targets have moved in the wrong direction five years in a row – the amount of waste per person disposed daily increased, while the waste recovery rate decreased. From 2014 to 2015, waste disposed went up (from 1.35 to 1.39kg), while waste recovered went down (from 36.5 to 35.4 per cent). That’s the worst performance in a decade.

In the Environment Bureau’s waste-management blueprint issued in 2013, the objective for the amount of waste per person disposed daily was set at 1kg by 2017 and 0.8kg by 2022. The recovery rate was to be 55 per cent by 2022.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing has talked up the blueprint for the past two years. But at a January 17 press conference, he was mum about waste management performance, except for an 8 per cent decrease in food waste, which is just 30 per cent of total domestic waste.

I have long argued that the blueprint’s waste disposal and recovery targets are unattainable.

Wong and his department seem incapable of grasping the simple equation governing waste management: waste disposed is equal to waste generated less waste recovered.

Imposing a waste-charging scheme cannot lower significantly the amount of waste disposed, unless there’s a commensurate increase in the amount of waste recovered.

And the waste recovery rate cannot increase much without waste separation at source.

Wong cited the success of South Korea and Taipei in reducing waste disposed by imposing waste charging. He omitted the crucial factor in their success: waste separation at source is required by law.

Waste-recovery companies in Hong Kong have to sell paper, plastic and metal to the mainland at market prices, which cannot be controlled by the Environment Bureau.

This means the current 36 per cent waste recovery rate cannot realistically increase to 55 per cent, which is the rate achieved by countries that successfully manage their waste.

At its 36 per cent waste recovery rate, Hong Kong needs to reduce waste generation by 40 per cent from the current level to achieve the 0.8kg average amount of waste per person disposed daily by 2022. In their dreams.

Tom Yam, Lantau

Real Solutions, Not Failed Techno-Fixes: A Global South Perspective on #APlasticOcean

By Anne Larracas

Fifteen years ago in the Philippines, trying to use your own reusable bags in any major supermarket would have entailed an argument with management and with security personnel. Zero Waste advocates like myself who insisted on using our own bags were branded as security threats, shoplifters, or weirdos. Fellow customers would rail at us for holding up the line and for wasting their time if we refused plastic bags at the checkout counter, and staff would be confused why we refused something that was free.

I won those arguments most times; on days I didn’t, I simply walked away, buying nothing.

Fast forward 15 years: it’s not only acceptable to use your own bags in any store in the country, but there are also laws in many cities prohibiting plastic bags and encouraging people to bring reusable bags. There is widespread public acceptance now of the idea that plastic bag use must be reduced. As someone who has been involved in the tough fight to get to this point, I know that this is a result of more than a decade of numerous protests and creative actions, countless hours of lobbying at the local and national levels to support progressive plastic policies, and a relentless public awareness campaign to bring Zero Waste messages to the public.

I know for a fact that this public acceptance is spreading, and that every year more and more cities are committing to reduce the plastic menace. The very first national plastic bag ban was in fact passed in 2002 by an Asian country, Bangladesh. I also know for a fact that these successes are the result of campaigns that were waged by communities and groups, many of which are GAIA members, who have limited resources to fight head-to-head with the influential and powerful plastic industries in their countries but did anyway, and won significant battles.

I also know for a fact that people living in the United States of America throw away 10 times more garbage than people living in the countryside of the Philippines, and 4 times more waste than people living in our cities. Data from Plastics Europe, an industry association, shows that European and North American countries use 5 times more plastics per person than people in Asia. So I ask whose models we should follow, and whose voices should lead.

Organizing to reduce plastics had to start somewhere, so we started with the plastic bag, reasoning that as environmental awareness grew, it would be easier for the public and for governments to reduce reliance on other disposable and single-use plastics. Inspiring progress has been made: numerous plastic bag policies passed in many cities in India, Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines, China, and Bangladesh to name a few; Taiwan’s new goal to ban microbeads by 2020, a campaign led by the Taiwan Watch Institute; and South Korea’s long-standing policy for reusable (non-disposable) utensils in fast food restaurants, due to the Korea Zero Waste Movement Network.

Imagine my puzzlement and frustration then when I failed to see any of these stories mentioned in the film, A Plastic Ocean. Instead, what was captured were stereotypes often repeated elsewhere – that the global south is the source of problems and seemingly incapable of providing solutions, that it is a polluted and hopeless place, its peoples helpless and clueless, that we are endlessly waiting for salvation from the north. This is painful and upsetting, knowing the hardships of Zero Waste leaders in the region to promote environmental justice. A striking example is Dr. Shahriar Hossain from Bangladesh who received threats to his life and lived in exile from his beloved country for several years because he dared to lead the national campaign to ban plastic bags.

What many in developed countries fail to understand is that, no, the south is not just a grim and hopeless place that is full of garbage and filth. It is true, a lot of the communities and organizations in the global south have very little resources, but what we lack in material wealth, we make up for in creativity and determination. We understand our problems completely and what needs to be done. We don’t need to be told—we know the true cost of pollution. After all, a huge percentage of the population in the south rely directly on natural resources—our oceans and rivers and forests—to live. It is imperative that we stop the onslaught of pollution into our lives, but we do not want to rely on false solutions, on machines and technologies such as incinerators that claim to magically make our waste disappear overnight but leave a toxic legacy of ash and air pollution for future generations.

We also often have to contend with powerful industries colluding with those in government that threaten to knock us down at every turn, but we persist anyway. And more often than not, the visible waste we are struggling to address and find solutions for are products and packaging designed for advertising and maximum brand recall but cannot be recovered or recycled at all, such as multi-layer packaging and sachets. Multinational corporations — mostly based in the United States and Europe — push products that come in these packages and claim that they are “pro poor”, but in reality the economic and environmental costs of their actions are much higher and are borne by communities and local governments. These corporations wouldn’t dream of selling so many products in packaging like this in developed countries, a clear case of double standards.

It is deeply unfortunate that this film and so many other mass media stories from the U.S. and Europe fail to see and show the organizing leadership of Zero Waste and environmental justice advocates in the global south and our work to create a better environment for our children, and instead only focus on what is wrong.

In my personal experience as a waste activist, I’ve seen that many of the most lasting solutions are those that engage the community. It is when you take the time to think things through, adapt, involve as many stakeholders as possible, and learn, that you create solutions that will take root.

After being the first (and still only!) country to protect clean air by banning incineration seventeen years ago, Filipino cities have shown that Zero Waste strategies can work and make changes fast. They employ and empower waste workers. They engage residents through door-to-door trainings and collection. They change the face of waste through community gardens and compost centers. And — last but not least — they dramatically reduce pollution into our air, waterways, and climate.

Across the Asia Pacific region, zero waste advocates are working for policies that will turn off the unending flow of plastics and waste that cannot be recycled, compel and work with manufacturers and producers to redesign their products so that these do not become waste, convince the public to reduce their addiction to disposable products, and support the development and creation of industries that will make products that can be safely returned to production or to the earth. All this, while working to ensure that those relying on discards and resource recovery, those working in the informal waste sector, are not displaced and are fully involved in the solutions that must be implemented.

This is the work that needs support — not expensive and failure-ridden techno-fixes that haven’t worked in the global north and only threaten to create more pollution and threats to human health and livelihoods in the south. I’m happy to be part of the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, and invite you to join us and lend your support to real solutions.

Anne Larracas

On behalf of GAIA’s international coordination team

Hong Kong’s ‘producer pays’ e-waste levy to range from HK$15 to HK$165 per item

A long-awaited “producer pays” levy fee covering certain waste electrical and electronic equipment is likely to range between HK$15 and HK$165, according to a government paper.

Once fully implemented, manufacturers and importers will have to be registered and must bear the costs of properly recycling the items.

The proposed charges are HK$15 per item for computers, printers and scanners, HK$45 for monitors, HK$125 for washing machines and air-conditioning units, and HK$165 for television sets and refrigerators. They must be paid to the government on a quarterly basis.

Appliance sellers are also required to collect old appliances upon request from purchasers of new ones and deliver them to a licensed recycler for free.

Environmental Protection Department assistant director Samson Lai said the charges recovered the full costs of recycling and the scheme could be reviewed when appropriate. But he admitted that some retailers might try to pass some of the costs to consumers.

“The idea is based on a ‘polluter pays’ principle and creating a closed-loop recycling system in which e-waste is collected, processed and turned into resources via proper treatment,” he said. “It will also help reduce pressure on landfills.”

About 70,000 tonnes of e-waste is disposed of in the city each year, 80 per cent of which is exported and the rest usually landfilled locally – a situation the government says is unsustainable.

The government’s new treatment and recycling facility in Tuen Mun, scheduled for commissioning this year and operated by ALBA IWS, will have the capacity to handle 30,000 tonnes.

The latest updates will be discussed at the Legislative Council environmental affairs panel next week. Draft legislative amendments will be tabled to the council for scrutiny in the second quarter, with implementation expected in the third.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, director of environmental advocacy at the Green Earth, welcomed the updates but believed the levy rates were still quite low and would have minimal impact on producers.

Meanwhile, a report released on Sunday by United Nations University, the UN’s academic arm, found Hong Kong to have the highest e-waste per capita generation out of a dozen Asian countries, followed by Singapore and Taiwan.

The report attributed the average increase in e-waste generation over the region – 63 per cent from 2010 to 2015 – to more gadgets and consumers and devices being replaced more frequently.

Hong Kong and Singapore’s levels, it said, were particularly high because they did not yet have specific e-waste legislation. Both also had significant trans-boundary movements of e-waste generated domestically and in transit from other countries.

“Increasing the burden on existing waste collection and treatment systems results in flows towards environmentally unsound recycling and disposal,” co-author Ruediger Kuehr said.

An investigation by environmental group ¬Basel Action Network last year found Hong Kong to be a dumping ground for unwanted e-waste from the US [3].

Under the new scheme, a permit will be required for the importing and exporting of regulated e- waste. Regulated e-waste will also no longer be accepted at landfills.
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Hong Kong’s first integrated recycling plant for e-waste part of plans to make polluters pay

Operator looks to increase city’s recovery rate for electronic waste to at least 80 per cent as government implements “polluter pays” laws

The operator of Hong Kong’s first integrated recycling plant for electronics is hoping to increase the local recovery rate of such waste materials once its new facility and collection network become fully operational “on time and on budget” next year.

Packed into yellow steel cages, stacked two storeys high in a Sheung Shui warehouse are 200 tonnes of old bulky television sets, inkjet printers, scanners and refrigerators that the government contractor has been collecting since July. It will reach full capacity at 600.

The junk will be trucked off to the government’s first integrated treatment and recycling facility when it opens in the middle of next year at the Tuen Mun EcoPark – one of several measures to accommodate the government’s new “polluter pays” laws on certain types of electronic waste.

The producer responsibility scheme will include televisions, fridges, washing machines, computer products and air-conditioning units.

Passed in the legislature in March, once in effect, importers or distributors of the appliances will have to pay to help fund collection and disposal of waste electrical goods.

“In Europe, recycling is something expected, but in Hong Kong we’re still learning,” said ALBA IWS director Nigel Mattravers, the government contractor tasked with building and operating the facility and network.

The contractor is building five regional collection centres, including the one in Sheung Shui, to sort, store and record the e-waste, and eight satellite centres for collection only. Apart from helping businesses or NGOs conduct “take-back” services, the public can also drop e-waste off directly at the collection centres.

About 70,000 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment is disposed of in the city each year, 80 per cent of which is shipped off to regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia, while the rest is handled locally and dumped in a landfill.

The new facility will be able to handle 30,000 tonnes per year but the operator claims it will be able to increase capacity by extending operating hours if necessary.

“Much of this material is handled very badly across the world. At this facility we will recover all the hazardous materials from these appliances and make sure they are properly disposed of … and processed in a safe and environmentally sound fashion,” Mattravers said.

The products will be detoxified, dismantled and turned into secondary raw material such as plastics, alumina, copper or iron, which can be reused for manufacture or landfilled locally “in a clean manner”.

Mattravers said the target was to increase the local recovery rate to at least 80 per cent.

The Environmental Protection Department said reliance on exports to manage e-waste was not sustainable in the long run because demand for second-hand products overseas would decline over time.

Harmful materials found in e-waste, if not properly treated or disposed of, can harm the environment and human health.

ALBA IWS logistics manager Lawrence Cheung said the operator would have strict guidelines on waste collection such as by collecting only from a registered retailer or licensed recycler to avoid collecting illegally imported e-waste.

A two-year investigation by environmental group ¬Basel Action Network last year found Hong Kong to be a dumping ground for unwanted e-waste from the United States, in violation of the Basel Convention, which bars importation of hazardous waste.
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Shanghai water supply hit by 100-tonne wave of garbage

Ships are suspected of dumping waste upstream on China’s Yangtze river before it floats into a key city reservoir

Medical waste, broken bottles and household trash are some of the items found in more than 100 tonnes of garbage salvaged near a drinking water reservoir in Shanghai.

The suspected culprits are two ships that have been dumping waste upstream in the Yangtze river. It has then flowed downstream to the reservoir on Shanghai’s Chongming island which is also home to 700,000 people.

The reservoir at the mouth of the river is one of the four main sources of drinking water for the country’s largest city, according to local media.

China has struggled with air, soil and water pollution for years during its economic boom, with officials often protecting industry and silencing citizens that complain. China’s cities are often blanketed in toxic smog, while earlier this year more than 80% of water wells used by farms, factories and rural households was found to be unsafe for drinking because of pollution.

Officials dispatched more than 40 workers to clean up the mess, but the area around the reservoir will take about two weeks to clear, the Shanghai Daily reported. Shanghai’s water authority claims supplies are still safe to drink, but has stopped the flow coming in while it continues testing, the paper said.

Videos circulating on social media showed beaches and wetlands covered in a rainbow of plastic bags.

“There’s enough trash to cover several football fields,” a local resident can be heard saying in one video. Catheter bags and used IV sacks are pulled from the water, and in some places only a sea of trash can be seen, completely obscuring the river water.

“This is so sad, just humanity digging its own grave,” one commenter on Twitter-like Sina Weibo said.

Needles and medical tubes were found in the trash, which has been washing ashore since 5 November. Despite cleanup efforts, a new wave of garbage inundated the island again this week.

Earlier this year more than 500 students developed nosebleeds, rashes and illnesses, some as severe as leukaemia, in what local media linked to illegal toxic dumping by chemical factories.

Although parents complained for months, local officials ignored their claims and disputed any connection despite levels of chlorobenzene, a highly toxic solvent that causes damage to the liver, kidney and nervous system, nearly 100,000 times above the safe limit.

The country’s air pollution has been shown to contribute to more than 1 million deaths a year, linked to about a third of deaths in China’s major cities.

Joint operation detects alleged illegal collection and storage of chemical waste by recycling sites in Yuen Long

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) launched a joint departmental enforcement operation in mid-December with the Fire Services Department (FSD), the Police, the Planning Department (PlanD) and the Lands Department (LandsD) to inspect a number of open waste recycling sites in Yuen Long in the New Territories. During the inspections, three recycling sites were suspected to have illegally stored large amounts of chemical waste. The EPD is now investigating the persons involved and gathering evidence in preparation for instituting prosecutions.

An EPD spokesman today (December 20) said that the joint operation conducted between December 7 and 16, entitled “Operation E-change”, aimed to conduct surprise inspections at open waste recycling yards in Yuen Long to check whether their operations complied with the legal requirements on pollution control, fire safety, land planning and use.

During the joint operation, the EPD found that three recycling sites located at Lau Fau Shan and Shap Pat Heung in Yuen Long were involved in alleged illegal collection and storage of large quantities of chemical waste including waste LCD monitors, cathode ray tubes, printed circuits boards and lead-acid batteries for export sale.

More than 1 300 LCD monitors and cathode ray tubes were seized during the operation. Some of the recycling sites were also involved in the dismantling of waste LCD monitors. In addition, the PlanD and the LandsD are also gathering evidence to check if the sites had breached regulations in land use and planning controls, as well as the land lease conditions.

During the joint operation, the FSD reminded the person-in-charge and staff members of these recycling sites about the fire safety requirements. EPD staff also took water and soil samples in nearby areas to see whether the recycling site operations have affected the surrounding environment.

The spokesman said, “General use and normal selling of LCD monitors, cathode ray tubes, printed circuits boards and batteries will not constitute danger. However, if a recycling site is involved in the collection, storage, dismantling, disposal or import and export of a large quantity of such waste, which contains heavy metals (such as mercury, cadmium and lead) as well as toxic organic compounds in such form, quantity or concentration so as to cause pollution or constitute a danger to health, it is regulated under the Waste Disposal Ordinance and the Waste Disposal (Chemical Waste) (General) Regulation.

Improper treatment of chemical waste will cause pollution of the environment and affect public health. Any person who collects, stores, disposes of, imports or exports chemical waste must apply for a licence or permit from the EPD. However, the three recycling sites concerned have not obtained the required approval.

The EPD reminds waste recycling site operators that if their sites involve handling of hazardous electronic waste under the control of chemical waste regulations, they should register with the EPD in accordance with the law. Chemical waste must be properly packed, labelled, stored and collected by licensed chemical waste collectors for delivery to the EPD’s licensed chemical waste treatment facilities for disposal, otherwise it will constitute an offence. First-time offenders are liable to a maximum fine of $200,000 and six months’ imprisonment.

The EPD and relevant departments will continue to conduct joint enforcement action to combat illegal activities at waste recycling sites.