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Environment

Tear off the glossy covers or your magazines won’t get recycled, Hongkongers told

New rules on waste paper sent to mainland China mean contaminants found in glossy covers won’t pass the tests for recycling

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 10:04am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 10:04am

Hongkongers must be encouraged to remove the glossy cover pages before dropping a magazine in a recycling bin, otherwise the entire book will go to landfill, a green group has said.

The message comes after the city’s Environment Bureau announced last month that due to new requirements on waste exports to mainland China, only three types of paper would be collected from Hong Kong recycling bins starting from next year, and the glossy covers did not qualify.

These colourful pages are coated with a plastic layer and usually constitute about 3 per cent of a magazine, but they have fallen foul of stringent recycling rules announced by mainland authorities.

“Most of the glossy pages are on the cover or back page of the book,” The Green Earth said. “As long as the public remove these pages before putting them in to recycle, the material should be able to meet the requirements.”

China revealed a tweak in its national recycling policy in July with the aim of banning 24 types of polluting “foreign rubbish” imports.

Under the new rules, only paperboard, newspaper and office paper will be collected locally and sent across the border to be recycled.

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Paper will only be recycled if the proportion of “contaminants or impurities” does not exceed 0.5 per cent of the total weight of the book – meaning almost all local magazines would fail that test if their glossy pages were not removed.

The green group looked at 14 magazines published in the city and found they usually contained “contaminants” on about 12 of their pages, equivalent to 3 per cent of their weight.

“Should we give up recycling the entire book just because of a few glossy pages? The bureau should teach the public about this concept and how to expand recycling practices,” the group said.

The bureau reminded the public that paper recyclables should be kept dry and clean, and adhesive tape on paperboard as well as staples and paper clips on office paper should be removed.

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Some 80,000 tonnes of waste cardboard, newspaper and office paper are collected in the city each month, and almost all of it is exported over the border due to the city’s lack of sorting and processing capacity and the mainland’s demand for raw materials.