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Hong Kong environmental issues

Hong Kong retailers to pick up old appliances for free in scheme to deal with e-waste

Items will be taken to licensed facilities for storage, processing or recycling, but customers may have to wait as there is no guaranteed time frame for collection

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 10:30am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 11:35am

Wondering how to dispose of an old appliance when it is time to get a new one? Free statutory removal services for certain electronic items will be available starting next month under the first phase of a new “producer pays” scheme aimed at improving e-waste disposal in Hong Kong.

Customers take note however – those broken-down clunkers may have to sit at home for days as there is no mandatory time frame for when collections have to be made.

There could also be a fee if buyers want the goods gone sooner than the free service is available.

From August 1, all electronics sellers must provide free and approved service plans for the removal of old appliances for customers who buy new ones from them. The waste appliances will then have to be sent to licensed storage, treatment, reprocessing or recycling facilities.

Hong Kong to start ‘producer pays’ scheme for e-waste

“Under statutory arrangements, the seller providing the service should not be charging the customer anything at all,” Donald Ng Man-kit, deputy director of environmental protection, said on Wednesday.

But he conceded: “While we have requirements for removal service plans, the legislation does not [stipulate] how many days they have to collect it by.”

Ng said retailers were rarely able to arrange same-day delivery anyway, so customers could try to work out an arrangement in which removal could be done on the day of delivery, usually about three or four days after purchase.

At least 100 suppliers and 1,100 electronic appliance sellers have registered with the government since the scheme was gazetted in February to distribute the electronics covered: air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, television sets, computers, printers, scanners and monitors.

Most retailers have opted to work with Alba Integrated Waste Solutions, the government’s contracted operator for the city’s only large-scale e-waste recycling and reprocessing facility. Alba said customers could have their old appliances picked up as early as three days after purchase.

Lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan, a member of the Legislative Council environmental affairs panel, said most people could not spare the space at home to store a large appliance until collection. He said he hoped same-day removal could be achieved.

Welcome to Hong Kong, the world’s dumping ground for e-waste

The enabling legislation and subsidiary laws for the producer responsibility scheme were passed in 2015 and 2016. The programme aims to promote recycling as well as the proper disposal of electrical and electronic equipment waste by making suppliers and sellers pay for the collection, handling and disposal of old, unwanted appliances.

Charges have been set at HK$15 (US$1.90) per item for computers, printers and scanners, HK$45 for monitors, HK$125 for washing machines and air-conditioning units, and HK$165 for television sets and refrigerators. Retailers must pay the government on a quarterly basis.

Retailers who do not provide the service for free face a maximum penalty of HK$200,000. Sellers must clearly display recycling labels on the appliances and state on receipts the terms of their levies.

Why incinerators won’t solve Hong Kong’s rubbish disposal problem

A sales representative at appliance and electronics retailer Fortress told a Post reporter that it was possible that electronics suppliers could raise prices to cover the costs in the guise of a “trade-in” offer.

A Broadway employee said customers might have to wait five to seven days for collection. Dismantling of electronics was not covered, and customers would have to make their own arrangements, he said.

Under the second phase of the scheme, expected to come into effect at the end of the year, operators of e-waste recycling facilities as well as importers and exporters will have to hold valid waste disposal licences.