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December 20th, 2016:

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.