Recovery of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
Each year, Hong Kong households and corporates throw away more than 70,000 tonnes of waste computers and waste electrical and electronic equipment. Some of these items are still in good working condition and could be put to second-hand use. All of them contain components and materials that could be recovered for reuse and recycling, such as metals and plastics.
To reduce the quantity of waste computers and waste electrical and electronic equipment disposed of at landfills, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) launched a Territory-Wide Trial Recovery Programme in January 2003. The programme has been well received by the public and more than 40,000 waste computers and electrical and electronic units are being recovered and processed each year. This trial programme became the basis for the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Recycling Programme which was launched in September 2005, and also allow us to accumulate relevant experience to prepare the producer responsibility scheme (PRS).
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Recycling Programme
The WEEE Recycling Programme aims to channel WEEE for reuse and recycling instead of disposal. Since October 2010, St James' Settlement (SJS) was granted funding support from the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) to implement the WEEE GO GREEN programme to enhance the service and move from the Kowloon Bay Waste Recycling Centre to a larger recycling workshop at the EcoPark WEEE Recycling Centre. This programme is focused to recycle major designated items, including television sets, refrigerators, washing machines, video or audio equipment, microwave ovens, fans, water heaters, rice cookers, air-conditioners, heaters, electronic games and mobile phones. Other home electrical appliances will also be collected to recycle. In the past six years, the different types of WEEE collected through the WEEE GO GREEN programme amounted to about 1,600 tonnes in total, all of which have been reused or recycled. The collected items that are still serviceable are donated to the needy for reuse after checking and refurbishment. Other items are dismantled and recycled. It is estimated that to date the programme has donated over 25,000 pieces of refurbished equipment to some 7,800 needy families.
Progressive Implementation of Producer Responsibility Scheme
The implementation of the PRS on WEEE is making good progress while the WEEE Go Green programme operated by SJS was expired by October 2016. Various services provided under the WEEE Go Green programme have been succeeded by the operator (ALBA-IWS) of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Treatment and Recycling Facility (WEEETRF) under the PRS or by other services to further assist people in properly handling their e-wastes. At present, the WEEETRF is under construction. The operator is also making the necessary preparations for the operation phase, including the progressive establishment of the collection network.
Extension of various services
The various WEEE collection, donation and refurbishment services have been succeeded by the WEEETRF’s operator or by other services. Details are as follows.
EPD, via the WEEETRF operator (ALBA-IWS) operates the hotline (2676 8888) as a one-stop shop for members of the public to make enquiries on and arrange e-waste collection service. In addition, EPD is progressively developing one Community Green Station in each of the 18 districts and the initiative will progressively enhance the logistics support to community recycling activities.
ALBA-IWS has set up a team which will be responsible for arranging serviceable e-waste items to be donated to the needy for reuse. Such service has started to accept applications from 1 August 2016. For air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines and televisions, the items will be donated after checking and refurbishment. For the other types of equipment, replacement will be arranged if the donated items are found dysfunctional.
The WEEETRF operated by ALBA-IWS will have the capability to handle 30,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, turning it into resources after a series of detoxification, dismantling and recycling processes. It is estimated to be commissioned by mid-2017. Before that, the operator will stockpile e-waste items that are not suitable for reuse for future treatment by the facility upon its commissioning.
Moreover, EPD's mobile collection vehicle continues to collect electrical appliances, as well as computers, rechargeable batteries, compact fluorescent lamps and fluorescent tubes. The vehicle visits a different district each week.