LEGCO QUESTIONS

Recycling of waste paper and waste plastics

25 Oct 2017
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LCQ6: Recycling of waste paper and waste plastics

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Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Leung and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (October 25):

Question:

In July this year, the General Office of the State Council promulgated the Implementation Plan on Advancing Reform of the Administration System on Import of Solid Wastes through Prohibiting Import of Foreign Rubbish. Measures introduced under the Plan include gradually and systematically reducing the types and quantities of imported solid waste, raising the threshold for importing solid waste, and banning the import of household waste plastics, unsorted waste paper, etc. On the other hand, in light of the temporary suspension of issuance of approval documents earlier on by the relevant Mainland departments for importing waste paper, a number of local waste paper recyclers initiated a campaign last month to cease the collection of waste paper. As a result, huge quantities of waste paper piled up on the street, causing environmental hygiene problems. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective quantities of waste paper and waste plastics collected last year; among such waste materials, the respective quantities exported and retained locally for recycling; a breakdown of the respective quantities of exported waste materials by export destination; the estimated increase in the quantity of solid waste to be delivered to landfills in Hong Kong each year upon the full implementation of the measures to reduce the types and quantities of imported solid waste by the Mainland authorities; the measures in place to assist the recycling industry in improving the quality of solid waste so as to meet the Mainland’s raised threshold;

(2) whether it knows the latest situation of exporting local waste paper to the Mainland; whether the authorities have, in respect of the temporary suspension of issuance of approval documents by the relevant Mainland departments for importing waste paper, drawn up any contingency plan, such as enhancing the support rendered to recyclers for exploring other export markets; if so, of the details; and

(3) whether the authorities will establish waste paper recycling plants in Hong Kong to replace the approach of relying on export to dispose of local waste paper; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

Acting President,

Under the Implementation Plan on Advancing Reform of the Administration System on Import of Solid Wastes through Prohibiting Import of Foreign Rubbish (the Plan) promulgated on July 18, 2017, the Mainland authorities will, starting from early next year, phase in more stringent requirements on the import of recyclables. The move will have certain impact on recyclers of waste paper and waste plastics in Hong Kong. Taking a multi-pronged approach, the Government will help the recycling industry adapt to the latest Mainland policies, thereby turning the new situation into opportunity.

In her Policy Address this year, the Chief Executive has mentioned a number of new initiatives to further promote waste reduction at source and clean recycling and to complement the implementation of municipal solid waste charging, which is expected to be introduced by the end of 2019 at the earliest. Amongst others, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) will establish an outreaching team and kick off a new round of publicity and education campaign on clean recycling to raise territory-wide awareness on recycling, thereby enhancing the recyclability and recycling value of recyclables, hence providing recyclers with more appropriate recyclable materials. Moreover, the EPD will strengthen its collaboration with non-governmental organisations and stakeholders to actively support the collection of low-value recyclables at community level, and will also introduce a scheme on central collection of waste plastic bottles, with the aim of enhancing the cost effectiveness in handling such recyclables.

The Recycling Fund has in recent months launched new funding schemes, which encourage recyclers to process the recyclables to meet the latest Mainland requirements on importing recyclables. We will work with the Advisory Committee on Recycling Fund to take forward suitable initiatives to support the recycling industry in its upgrading and transformation.

My reply to the Hon Leung’s question is as follows:

(1) Compilation of the statistics for 2016 is underway. The respective quantities of paper recyclables and plastic recyclables exported for recycling and recycled locally and the major export destinations (countries/regions) in 2015 are set out in Annex 1.

On supporting the recycling industry’s development, the key concrete measures including assistance in enhancing recyclables’ quality at source and exploring more diversified outlets are set out in Annex 2. With the concerted efforts of the public, the recycling industry and government departments in exploring other possible import markets, and our efforts in studying the feasibility of incubating a local manufacturing industry using recycled materials, we adopt a multi-pronged approach to avoid having recyclable materials disposed of at landfills.

(2) The Environment Bureau (ENB) and the EPD have maintained dialogues with both the state and Guangdong environmental protection authorities. On August 25 and September 29 this year, a meeting was held with the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), and September 11 with the Department of Environmental Protection of Guangdong Province. The MEP said that the Mainland still have quotas available for importing several million tonnes of waste paper by the end of 2017, but the number of quotas available for receiving waste paper from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region would be subject to the commercial considerations of individual enterprises of the two places. We have all along maintained close liaison with the trade. According to some trade practitioners, they can continue to export local recyclables to the Mainland for the time being. As mentioned in Annex 2, through Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices and the Trade Development Council, we are currently keeping abreast of trade laws of various markets as well as market information of recyclables, and assisting Hong Kong’s waste paper recyclers to explore other possible import markets. We will stay vigilant to the latest situation of the market and provide other timely supportive measures.

(3) We will study the feasibility of incubating a local manufacturing industry using recycled materials, with a view to finding more effective and diversified outlets for locally-generated recyclables and reducing export of recyclables. For example, we are examining how to support the development of such an industry leveraging on the land and relevant ancillary facilities at the EcoPark. Say for municipal solid waste, as waste paper makes up the largest proportion of local recyclables, the development of a recycling industry capable of processing local waste paper is currently accorded priority.

Thank you, acting President.