Whirlpool Corporation

Recycling appliances right up group's alley

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 January, 2011, 12:00am

Workers at a charity recycling centre in Tuen Mun have a special name for one alley in their compound - Sai Yee (Laundry) Street, after the one in Mong Kok.

It is here that dozens of washing machines are tested to see if they still work.

The machines are not necessarily old or in poor condition. Some not only work well but have seldom or never been used.

'A man just sent this machine from Mid-Levels. It is really wasteful as it looks brand new,' a worker from the charity recycling centre said, testing the machine that would cost thousands of dollars to buy.

Adjacent to Laundry Street is 'Ice House Street' where refrigerators of different brands, sizes and ages are arranged in rows, waiting to be tested.

All these appliances are part of the stock stored at the government-funded EcoPark in Tuen Mun. They are tested, refurbished and redistributed to needy people or properly taken apart for resale of parts and final disposal as landfill.

The new centre, run by St James' Settlement, opened in December. It replaced a processing centre in Kowloon Bay and is double the former site's size.

Senior manager Josephine Lee Yuk-chi said the centre had collected 18 tonnes of appliances - about 3,200 items - in its first month of operation in the new location.

More items might be collected this month from about 380 housing estates that have signed up for a recycling campaign as the public gears up for the Lunar New Year.

But Lee said the income from re-selling the appliances and materials extracted from the dismantling was far from enough to sustain the processing of thousands of electrical appliances every year.

'The income is unlikely to cover wages and transport costs,' she said. 'Also, out of 10 kilograms of appliances collected, only about a quarter of them are still working.'

But in what could be a boost for their finances, the centre recently learned that copper that has been extracted from electrical cables can fetch up to HK$60,000 a tonne, compared with the HK$13,000 it sells for when it is not separated from the cables.

Last year the charity won a HK$10 million contract approved by the Environment and Conservation Fund to run the centre for three years.

It aims to process at least 670 tonnes of appliances, with the priority being television sets, fridges and washing machines, which are popular among lower-income families.