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Hong Kong environmental issues

Mainland Chinese government eases block on waste paper imports from Hong Kong

Environment secretary says Beijing set to issue more permits for cross-border trade in waste paper, which has been backing up in city

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 1:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 4:33pm

The mainland government has given the green light for Hong Kong recyclers to sell waste paper over the border again, raising hopes that the problem of piled-up paper in the city’s piers, and one park, could soon come to an end.

Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing on Friday called on local exporters to get in touch with their mainland buyers to get the supply moving again.

The logjam was the result of a mainland ban on imports of “foreign rubbish”, announced in July, to take full effect by the end of the year. To stem the flow, the government cut the number of permits it gave to waste importers, many of whom buy lots of their waste from Hong Kong.

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About 1,000 recycling plants across the mainland failed to get a permit to bring in foreign waste, causing it to back up in Hong Kong. It mostly accumulated at piers, but of it was moved to EcoPark in Tuen Mun.

But the central government has now boosted the number of permits for the rest of the year.

“The ministry told Hong Kong that there is substantial quota in the rest of this year to [import] waste paper that is qualified, to the mainland,” Wong said, after a meeting with the mainland’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, in Beijing.

Jacky Lau Yiu-shing, director of the Recycle Materials and Re-Production Business General Association, welcomed the news. Lau said it would mean the mainland could import all 200,000 tonnes of waste paper forecast to be collected from Hong Kong by the end of the year.

About 80,000 tonnes of waste paper is collected across Hong Kong each month.

“Some mainland recycling firms are already asking us to collect waste paper, and I believe the recycling price for waste paper will get back to normal after National Day [on October 1],” Lau said.

The price for cardboard is expected to recover gradually from about 50 cents per kilogram now to the normal level of about 80 cents, with export prices to increase from HK$800 per tonne to HK$1,200, according to Lau.

The industry staged a three-day strike earlier this month in response to the policy shift, and the huge drop in demand that it caused their industry.

The collection gradually resumed from September 18, but collection prices had dropped ever since.