Recycling park opened to treat waste electrics

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‘Waste electrical and electronic equipment’ (WEEE), of which Hong Kong produces 70,000 tonnes annually, can now be recycled and treated as the recycling facility WEEE.PARK opened at EcoPark in Tuen Mun last month.

The government-subsidised park is the city’s first integrated e-waste transformational facility to facilitate the proper recycling of WEEE. The collected e-waste will be dismantled to remove elements of the equipment for recycling, and the recyclable components will be sorted into secondary raw materials. Appliances in good condition, on the other hand, will be refurbished for donation to families in need.

“The WEEE·PARK will provide us with the necessary processing capacity to properly recycle and treat WEEE generated locally, turning them into useful resources by employing state-of-the-art technology,” chief executive Carrie Lam said at the opening ceremony of the park last month.

“It will also underpin the producer responsibility scheme on WEEE that the government will be implementing in full later this year,” she added.

WEEE covers eight types of equipment including air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, computers, printers, scanners and monitors, which are collectively referred to as regulated electrical equipment (REE). They account for 85% of all WEEE generated in Hong Kong.

Under the producer responsibility scheme that will take effect from August 1, suppliers of REE must be registered and pay a recycling levy on REE that they distribute in Hong Kong. The levy ranges from $15 to $165 per item. Sellers of REE must also arrange removal service for consumers free of charge so that the old equipment can be delivered to a competent recycler.

The park’s operator ALBA IWS expects to process 6,000 tonnes of WEEE into valuable raw materials in the first year, and reach the annual target of 30,000 tonnes in three years.

Edwin Lau, executive director of local advocate The Green Earth, told Harbour Times that the facility comes with proper hardware after a site visit, but there has to be better software to ensure the target can be reached.

“The WEEE.PARK is a major player in e-waste recycling as it aims to handle nearly half of the waste generated annually. It can work closely with the local e-waste collectors who can act as the middleman to ensure and extend geographical coverage, so more e-waste can be collected,” said Lau.

To handle e-waste, the recycling park is one thing. Regulation is another, according to Lau.

“The government should step up supervision for importing and exporting e-waste. Hong Kong is a free port that sees large import and export volumes after all. Some e-waste that is actually imported is treated as locally produced. When exporting e-waste, the authorities should also check if the receivers are qualified for their capacity to process the waste,” said Lau.

The concern was raised as reports last year said Hong Kong has become the world’s dumping ground for e-waste.

In response, environment secretary Wong Kam-sing said at the opening ceremony that a legislation related to the banning of the importation of the overseas e-waste into Hong Kong will take effect from the end of this year.

“In short, this facility, together with the regulations, would provide capacity to handle the locally produced e-waste. At the same time, we would have better control of the imported e-waste,” said Wong.

To effectively reduce e-waste, Lau also said the government should raise public awareness and encourage the citizens to use electronic products as long as possible rather than chasing the latest models.

The WEEE·PARK is the latest member of the advanced waste management infrastructure, following the T·PARK that transforms sludge into energy. Hong Kong’s first organic resource recovery centre, O·PARK, will also commence operation later this year.

Meanwhile, a food waste pre-treatment facility at Tai Po Wastewater Treatment Plant is also expected to be commissioned next year for pilot co-digestion of food waste and sludge in Hong Kong.

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