Authorities act against paper pile-up
The Hong Kong government formulated a contingency plan to deal with paper and cardboard waste on Friday after several of the city’s recyclers decided to suspend waste-paper collection for a week.
The Environmental Protection Department and Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will enhance street cleaning and collection services to alleviate the piling up of waste paper on streets after the suspension began on Friday, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said.
Wong called on the public to separate recyclables at source and store up waste paper if the situation permits. Once the storage reaches a considerable amount the public can send them to the four Community Green Stations and 18 Community Recycling Centers for collection.
The FEHD will provide additional recycling bins outside refuse collection points and follow up with collecting and recycling services of the sorted waste paper in large quantities. The EcoPark in Tuen Mun has 3 hectares reserved for temporary storage.
Most of Hong Kong’s raw waste paper goes to the Chinese mainland as the city lacks sorting and processing capacity. Mainland authorities have however announced that they will tighten import requirements on 24 types of solid waste from overseas, to be enforced by the end of this year.
Some recyclers said their mainland partners had not received shipment approvals issued by authorities for new orders from Hong Kong.
“It is a challenge for Hong Kong. It’s a crisis, but at the same time, an opportunity for Hong Kong to reshape our recycling industry and also the government policy,” said Jonathan Wong Woon-chung, professor at the Department of Biology at Hong Kong Baptist University.
Jacky Lau Yiu-shing, director of the Hong Kong Recycle Materials and Reproduction Business General Association, estimated the industry may face serious setbacks and financial loss if the mainland restrictions come into force.
He announced the halt of waste-paper collection on Friday morning, calling for attention from the Hong Kong government to find solutions and provide support for the business transformation in the long run.
Not all recyclers share Lau’s gloomy outlook. Allan Wong, a local recycler of plastic and paper waste, doubts the motive of the business suspension Lau announced. Some exporters may be attempting to bring down the recycling costs they pay, by fueling public uncertainty about the future of the industry, he suspected.
He said he will keep collecting and explore markets in Southeast Asia.
Environment Secretary Wong said the SAR government will keep close contact with the central government and relevant departments in Guangdong province for solutions.
Paper and cardboard pile high at Rambler Channel Public Cargo Working Area in Kwai Chung on Friday as recyclers suspended waste-paper collection after mainland authorities moved to tighten restrictions on waste imports.