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Hong Kong environmental issues

Recycling scheme risks being a waste

The electronic waste recycling scheme should help reduce environmental pollution. But when it was finally rolled out this week, neither the industry nor consumers were clear of the details

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 7:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 8:54pm

The implementation of the electronic waste recycling scheme ought to be a commendable step to help reduce environmental pollution. Regrettably, it risks becoming a public nuisance because of insufficient preparation and publicity. Not only may consumers be overcharged when replacing washing machines and other targeted appliances, they may have to wait days or even weeks to have their old items removed by approved agents. The government needs to play a more active role in smoothing the process and ensuring all stakeholders are ready for the change.

Under the Producer Responsibility Scheme, sellers have to help remove for free air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, computers, scanners, printers and monitors and have the items taken to licensed recyclers. The government has had years to get people ready for the scheme. But when it was finally rolled out this week, neither the industry nor consumers were clear of the details.

Higher prices for appliances likely as Hong Kong rolls out recycling plan

Confusion is not uncommon when a new scheme is in place. After all, it takes time for people to get used to the changes. But the industry is apparently unable to cope with the workload. Some buyers said they had been told to wait more than a week to have their old appliances removed, apparently because of insufficient manpower. Those willing to fork out for a premium removal service can have an old item replaced with a new one on the same day. Unless you have spacious living space for bulky fridges and washing machines lying idly around for days, buying these new items may become a nightmare.

The polluters-pay principle remains one of the best ways to change practices that are harmful to the environment. The recycling levies imposed on manufacturers of the regulated electronic items are expected to be passed on to consumers anyway. While most people would not mind paying more for a better environment, some shops reportedly took advantage of the scheme and raised retail prices unreasonably. Fridges have been just discarded in the street, raising doubt as to whether they will be properly recycled at all. The government must step up coordination and promotion to ensure that the scheme can serve its purpose.