Waste recyclers plan protest as some exporters halt collections

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 October, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong waste recyclers are threatening to stage a slow-drive protest on Monday to urge the government to offer more help to the flagging industry after some waste paper exporters halted collections.

The price of waste paper per tonne offered by exporters has reportedly dropped to about HK$400, which some collectors said could barely cover transport costs and payment to scavengers at street level.

The price has fallen after peaking in mid-summer at HK$1,600 per tonne. Recyclers said yesterday the drop had been caused by declining demand on the mainland. A similar price cut has also affected the waste metal trade.

Now scavengers are being paid about 20 HK cents a catty, or 600 grams, for waste paper or newspapers they collect compared with up to HK$1.50 previously. This has come as a serious blow to families living in poverty and relying on the extra income to meet household expenses.

Mrs Kim, a mother of three living in Sham Shui Po, said their extra income had fallen from about HK$500 to HK$300 a month in recent months.

'My sons went to school by bus when we could make HK$500 by selling waste paper. The return trips for my two sons cost about HK$16 a day, but now they have to walk again,' she said.

The mother of three said she had to wait at fresh food markets all the time to collect vegetables dumped by stall operators to keep her budget at HK$5 for one meal.

Leung Yiu-cheong, a member of the Hong Kong General Association of Recycling Business, said some exporters had stopped taking in waste paper from collectors, or had dropped their offers substantially.

The association plans to stage a protest involving 200 trucks on Monday at the Kwun Tong cargo loading area to call on the government to provide more financial help to the industry. Mr Leung said some recyclers might face closure due to cash flow problems as they were having difficulties in obtaining payment from buyers and bank loans were now out of the question.

'The current low price has discouraged people from collecting at street level and it is likely that this waste might eventually end up in the landfill,' Mr Leung said, adding that there was no paper recycling factory in Hong Kong.

But one recycler based in Yuen Long said it was still operating and exports had not stopped, though the volume traded and prices had both fallen significantly.

Edward Yau Tang-wah, secretary for the environment, said he understood the paper recycling trade was still operating.