CY Leung policy address 2014

HK$1 billion each for funds to boost recycling and reuse of old landfill sites

Government says launch of two funds shows its determination to tackle the city's looming waste crisis and find new uses for closed dump sites

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 7:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 7:11am

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has vowed to pour HK$1 billion into a new fund to support recycling and tackle the looming waste crisis.

Another HK$1 billion fund will help find new uses for 18 hectares of land at six closed landfills.

Organisations such as sports associations and charities will be able to submit proposals for use of the sites.

The two initiatives come with politicians and lawmakers at an impasse over funding requests by environment officials to extend the city's three landfills.

The government wants to expand the landfills in Tseung Kwan O, Ta Kwu Ling and Tuen Mun - which will all be full by 2019 - to take waste until a planned incinerator is ready.

The Tseung Kwan O proposal was shelved because of strong opposition, and legislators also decided to delay discussion of the other two plans.

An official said the funds showed the administration's determination to support recycling and waste reduction.

"We also want to let the public know that while we can't build homes on restored landfill sites, they can still benefit the community and provide a beautiful environment," he said. "It might even boost property prices."

But Gary Fan Kwok-wai, a Sai Kung district councillor and lawmaker, was unimpressed.

"It will take years or even decades before any of these proposals see the light of day," he said.

The recycling fund was one of the demands made by lawmakers in return for approving funding for landfill extensions. Federation of Trade Unions lawmakers had called for a HK$5 billion fund, while the Labour Party wanted HK$2 billion a year to help struggling recyclers.

After the failed bid for funding to extend the Tseung Kawn O landfill, the government set up a task force headed by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to study measures - including the fund - to assist the recycling industry.

Leung did not set out the eligibility criteria or rules for disbursing the fund. The money could be directed towards recycling plastics and small electrical goods.

At present, about 90 per cent of recovered waste is exported elsewhere for recycling.

The government is believed to have commissioned the Productivity Council to look into problems facing the recycling industry and come up with solutions.

Local recycler Lau Yiu-shing said financial assistance would help those recycling wood, glass bottles and plastics, none of which were cost-effective because of the bulky nature of the raw material.

"But for paper and metals, what we really need is a dedicated sea cargo loading area and more operating space, not cash subsidies," Lau said.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, an activist with Friends of the Earth, welcomed the recycling fund initiative but said he hoped the money would go to those who really contributed to local recycling efforts and not to the waste exporters.

One sports group was already considering applying to convert one of the disused landfill sites.

Philip Li Kam-kuen, chairman of the Hong Kong Baseball Association, said the group had long discussed with the government the possibility of having its own baseball pitch in Tseung Kwan O.

Two of the landfill sites are in Ma Yau Tong, East Kowloon; two are in Tseung Kwan O; one in Pillar Point, Tuen Mun; and another in Ngau Tam Mei, Yuen Long.

Leung also earmarked HK$400 million a year to build and run a network of drop-off recycling stations in 18 districts.

The first one, in Sha Tin, is expected to be ready by the middle of the year.

Sites for the remainder are still be identified.