New Waste Producer Responsibility Scheme causes problems for local retailers

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The Producer Responsibility Scheme on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, covering air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, computers, printers, scanners and monitors came into effect on 1 August. The Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing (left), visits several retail outlets selling such items at a shopping mall in Causeway Bay and talks to the frontline staff to understand the operation of the new scheme on its first day of implementation              Photo: HKGov

Starting 1 August 2018, suppliers of air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, computers, printers, scanners and monitors (collectively referred to as regulated electrical equipment – REE) must have been registered the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) before distributing these items.  According to the regulations, registered suppliers must also fulfill other statutory obligations, including the submission of returns to EPD and payment of recycling levies, as well as providing recycling labels when distributing such items.  At the same time, a seller must have a removal service plan endorsed by EPD.  When a seller sells such an item, and if requested by the consumer, the seller should arrange for the consumer a free removal service to dispose of the same class of equipment abandoned by the consumer in accordance with the endorsed plan.  The seller must also provide recycling labels to consumers making a purchase, and a receipt containing the prescribed wording on the recycling levies.

Previous to the scheme, many local retailers arranged privately, for a small fee, to take away old electrical and electronic equipment, usually at the time the new item was delivered. The seller then took it to a registered e-waste disposal site. It was fairly seamless and quick. However, many buyers did not want to pay for disposal, which meant that many electrical items were just thrown away, usually left beside the road or adjacent to waste collection points. This has now been made illegal. At the same time, the cost of disposal has been added to the cost of the equipment – so the buyer pays for its disposal in the purchase price.

However, this is where problems arise. With only one registered company approved for the collection and disposal of this equipment for the Sai Kung area, it is taking up to a week for the old stuff to be collected. BUZZ spoke to two local retailers about the effect this was having on their businesses.

Greco Lam, at Patsy House, said that people were generally aware of the scheme but that many of the details of its operation needed to be explained. His main problem was items located on higher floors and the need for customers to keep their old items for some time before they could be collected. This was not such a problem in Sai Kung, as most houses only had three storeys and were generally larger than the smaller flats in high rises in the city.

Emma Chan, at Liberty, was concerned about the delays in collection, as well as the inconvenience to her customers. Large and heavy items, such as air-conditioners, freezers and large fridges, would be difficult for customers to move. She also felt that by possibly having to make two sets of arrangements – one for delivery and another for collection – customers would find it confusing.

If a member of the public needs to dispose of a waste equipment and is not purchasing a new item, he or she may call the recycling hotline 2676 8888 to make an appointment for free collection service.  However, EPD notes that the schedule of appointment may take longer as the collections and disposal operator (WEEE-PARK*) gives higher priority to collection requests for statutory removal services.

At the same time, the disposal licensing control, import and export permit control and landfill disposal ban in respect of abandoned items will commence on 31 December 2018.  By then, any person who is engaged in the storage, treatment, reprocessing or recycling of abandoned electrical items must obtain a waste disposal licence; a permit will be required for the import and export of abandoned items; and abandoned items will no longer be accepted for disposal at the landfills and other designated waste disposal facilities (e.g. refuse transfer stations). This will mean that there will be a higher likelihood of prosecutions for leaving old items at the waste collection points in the villages or round town. As EPD and other agencies will have access to serial numbers etc. on all electrical/electronic items, it will be an fairly easy job to determine who owns them.

* The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Treatment and Recycling Facility (WEEE·PARK), which was developed to underpin the Waste Producer Responsibility Scheme, commenced full operation in March 2018.  WEEE·PARK has adopted advanced technologies and equipment for treating WEEE and turning the waste into reusable materials such as plastics and metals through a series of detoxification, dismantling and recycling processes.

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