Government should help recyclers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 4:44am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 4:44am

I refer to the report ("Incinerator and landfill expansions are a must, says Bernard Chan", February 20).

Mr Chan as chairman of the Council for Sustainable Development should know better. He is confusing the collection and sorting of recyclable materials with recycling per se.

Hong Kong is certainly not recycling 48 per cent of daily waste. With over seven million citizens and 50 million visitors a year, the city has not the up-to-date infrastructure for coherent waste separation and collection, and the recycling industry is still small. Recyclers in a meeting last year with Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing asked the government to support the provision of land for expansion.

Large amounts of materials which represent value are sent to the mainland for recycling. One situation shows the ever-increasing stockpile of plastic waste here because the mainland is now refusing certain, untreated plastics; we do not have the capacity in Hong Kong to process our large volumes.

Most of what is in our daily rubbish bins is not waste but value. Value recovery, that is recycling, is the core of a sustainable future . Sustainable should not be confused with burning value or unnecessaryily adding to landfills.

To follow an honest policy of a sustainable future the government must change its philosophy from thinking of waste to thinking of values and give the highest priority to value-recovery before landfills or giant incinerators.

Once we have a thriving recycling industry in Hong Kong we preserve and create value and employment and can export processed or semi-processed commodities. The amount destined for landfills will be drastically reduced. The requirements for different recycling methods and techniques will support many small and medium-sized enterprises. The recycling industry is beneficial for the city and deserves support before thinking further on the HK$20 to HK$30 billion for a giant incinerator, the integrated waste management facility.

The planned waste tax on consumers also shows misguided government policy. The manufacturers, importers and retailers are selling us products that the government declared is waste. These businesses have already added their profit margins on products/packaging; they should give back part of these gains to the community by way of a product levy.

Under "extended producer responsibility" the money should then be used to support the infrastructure for recycling and put Hong Kong on the way, ultimately, to a zero-waste future; several countries have implemented such a policy.

Thomas Gebauer, Discovery Bay