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Laws cover cross-border waste disposal

South China Morning Post — 13 April 2011

In response to Michael Lewis’s letter (“Draw up delta refuse strategy”, April 5), it has been the general approach internationally for individual jurisdictions to properly treat and dispose of their waste at the place of generation. That is, each jurisdiction should have its own means to manage the waste it generates, including household waste.

Trans-boundary movement and disposal of waste collected from households in the international arena is subject to the Basel Convention, which requires the prior consent of the importing jurisdiction before the trans-boundary movement of waste can take effect.

China is a signatory to the Basel Convention, which is also applied to Hong Kong.

Both the mainland and Hong Kong authorities have implemented the Basel requirements through national and local legislation, respectively.

Under the national law of China, the import of any waste for disposal is prohibited. The prohibition applies to Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” structure.

On the Hong Kong side, export of household waste is subject to control of the Waste Disposal Ordinance, Cap. 354, which limits the control authority from permitting the export of such waste unless the importing jurisdiction gives consent.

In other words, under the existing laws of the mainland and Hong Kong, the export of household waste from Hong Kong to the mainland for disposal is not permitted.

That said, the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department has been exploring the possibilities for cross-boundary recycling of reusable materials with the Guangdong Environmental Protection Department under the purview of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Environmental Co-operation Agreement.

This is with a view to reducing the pressure on our limited landfill capacity and improving the resource utilisation of the Pearl River Delta region.

Dr Alain Lam, principal environmental protection officer (waste management policy), Environmental Protection Department

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