My Take

Hong Kong now the dumping ground for waste from world’s two largest economies

No more excuses: city’s environmental authorities have to get a grip on e-waste being shipped here from the US and debris flowing in from Guangdong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2016, 10:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2016, 10:50pm

Officials are always dreaming of turning Hong Kong into a hi-tech hub for this and that. Well, we have certainly become a real hub – for garbage, both regional and international.

Give us your junk, your e-waste and your debris, we take all of it in. Our environmental watchdog is asleep at the wheel, and our government is too timid to demand action from across the border.

Since the start of summer, the city’s shorelines have been deluged with massive amounts of debris, most likely coming from Guangdong.

Hong Kong’s illegal e-waste dumps ... whose fault? War of words between US watchdog and government

Meanwhile, Americans have turned the New Territories, especially Yuen Long, into a big junkyard for their electronic waste. We are being buried in waste produced by the world’s two greatest economies. In just the first nine days of this month, government cleaners have collected more than 85 tonnes of garbage washed up on our shores. Simplified Chinese words and quality-control symbols used on the mainland give a pretty good idea where a lot of the debris came from.

Officials including Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying – who led several ministers in a clean-up effort of sorts on Sunday – say heavy rainfall and flooding are to blame for the recent debris.

Scientists say climate change and even the El Nino weather cycle in the Pacific Ocean are the cause. But if Guangdong officials had managed their waste disposal better, especially garbage being thrown into the sea, we may not be in this situation.

What a mess: Hong Kong to discuss rubbish deluge with Guangdong authorities

Belatedly, Leung has acknowledged the scale of the problem and the need for cross-border cooperation with Guangdong to stem the tide of waste flowing into Hong Kong.

“We’ve seen an unusual phenomenon in recent weeks that lots of domestic garbage from the mainland has washed up in Hong Kong, which we estimate could be related to heavy rainfall and flooding,” he said.

Now if only Leung and his lieutenants like environmental protection chief Wong Kam-sing will also show some spine and confront the Americans who have turned us into a key dumping ground for their electronic waste.

We know this thanks to the painstaking detective work of US-based environmental watchdog Basel Action Network. Disgracefully, instead of saying thank you, Wong’s department has been engaged in a war of words with the network over who told whom what and when.

Really, Mr Wong, don’t shoot the messenger. Stand up for Hong Kong instead.