ECF TEXTILE, ELECTRONICS & OTHER WASTE REPORT
When it comes to other recyclables, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD)’s waste management policy now mostly focuses on dealing with electronic equipment, hazardous waste, and construction waste.
In March 2018, WEEE PARK in Hong Kong commenced full operation and started turning tonnes of regulated waste electrical and electronic equipment into valuable secondary raw materials. Annually, the park processes 30,000 tonnes of WEEE including air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, computers, printers, scanners, and monitors.
In 2020, the recovery rate of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) saw an increase from 69% to 71% a year later. The recyclable value of WEEE is relatively high, which attracts local recyclers to actively engage in WEEE recovery.
Moreover, in Hong Kong, the Producer Responsibility Scheme on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WPRS) which was fully implemented in 2018, provides a convenient recycling channel for the proper collection of used equipment requiring disposal. Upon purchase of a new regulated electrical equipment (REE) item, consumers are entitled to a statutory fee removal service arranged by the seller to collect a used item of the same class. Additionally, REE suppliers are required to apply to the EPD for the endorsement of a removal service plan, and pay a recycling levy ranging from HK$15 per item for computers to HK$165 per item for television sets and refrigerators.
Another Producer Responsibility Scheme in Hong Kong covers computer and communication products. The Computer and Communication Products Recycling Programme (CCRP) collects used computers and computer parts for refurbishment and recycling. The CCRP has lined up a charitable organisation to help refurbish computers that are still in working condition and donate them to the needy. More than a thousand housing estates and about 500 industrial and commercial buildings throughout Hong Kong have signed up for the CCRP. A free collection service is provided to participating estates and buildings once around every six months on a roster basis.
Concerning hazardous waste such as batteries and fluorescent lamps, the Hong Kong government launched Rechargeable Battery Recycling Programme (RBRP) and Fluorescent Lamp Recycling Programme (FLRP). Both programmes target households, not commercial buildings. Consumers can recycle batteries at designated public collection points, participating estates and commercial/industrial buildings. However, any property management company can organise a rechargeable battery recovery programme in housing estates and commercial/industrial buildings.
As for construction waste, in 2005, the government implemented the Construction Waste Disposal Charging Scheme to put the polluter pays principle into effect and provide economic incentives for the adoption of construction methods that promote reduction, reuse, and recycling of construction waste in the industry. Two off-site sorting facilities, namely Tuen Mun construction waste sorting facility and Tseung Kwan O construction waste sorting facility, were also implemented with the waste charging scheme. In 2017, after a review of the relevant charges, the government increased the construction waste disposal charges.
The quantity of construction waste disposed of at landfills decreased by about 13% to 3,418 tpd (1.25 million tonnes) in 2020. The recovery rate of construction materials rose from 92% in 2019 to 94% in 2020. Clearly, the increase in construction waste disposal charges with effect from April 2017 has had a positive impact on waste reduction.
Additionally, we would like to highlight textile waste as Hong Kong generates and disposes of an average of 242 tonnes of textile waste per day to the landfills, of which only 0.5% is recovered. Textile waste rates have risen over the years in comparison with other types of waste that have decreased due to improved public education and government initiatives.
INSIGHTS FROM OUR TRIAL
During our trial with 20 F&Bs in Hong Kong’s SoHo/Central District, we encouraged waste segregation, reduction, and recycling practices. We provided a collection service for special items such as bulbs, small electronic devices, textile, or other materials that can be recycled in Hong Kong. We recommended that the outlets install the “Waste Less” app to locate collection points for special recyclables near their premises to continue the practice.
One of the main issues with recycling these special items as well as furniture is the proximity of collection points and low visibility as often times these are not marked or easily accessible.
GOOD PRACTICES AND INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS
Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes
France started applying Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Schemes in 1992. The furniture scheme is the latest addition, implemented in 2012, among the 14 EPR schemes in France. It covers both household and commercial waste, with the aim of generating over 300 million euros per year. The scheme strongly promotes furniture reuse and involves social economy structures in its organizational model. In addition to furniture, the EPR schemes in France cover various types of waste such as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), batteries, end-of-life vehicles, packaging, textiles, and dispersed hazardous waste. While most schemes primarily focus on household waste, some also address commercial waste, such as WEEE and furniture. In the coming years, new types of waste will be included in the EPR schemes in France. These include packaging from the restoration sector (2023), chewing gum and hospital textiles (2024), and fishing items and industrial and commercial packaging (2025).
The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme in Australia requires the television and computer industries to fund the collection and recycling of a proportion of the televisions and computers disposed of in the country each year. The scheme aims to divert potentially hazardous television and computer waste from landfill, increase the recovery of usable materials, and provide greater access to recycling for communities across Australia in the long term. This scheme is part of Australia's broader efforts to promote sustainable waste management practices and reduce the environmental impact of electronic waste. By requiring the industry to take responsibility for the disposal of their products, the scheme aims to incentivize the development of more sustainable and environmentally friendly products, as well as promote the adoption of better waste management practices across the industry.
The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), in partnership with the H&M Foundation, has developed innovative technologies to turn recycled fabrics into new clothes. One of the most progressive projects brought by HKRITA is the 'Green Machine', which is a hydrothermal separation treatment. This technology can recycle blended textiles into new, clean, and wearable fibers without any loss in quality. The 'Green Machine' method requires only heat and a minimal amount of biodegradable green chemicals. It ensures that no secondary pollution is created during the recycling process. This advancement in textile recycling not only helps to reduce waste and environmental impact but also promotes a more sustainable and circular approach to the fashion industry by enabling the creation of new garments from recycled materials.
Bulky Waste Recycling
In Taipei, Taiwan, the district cleaning teams offer free collection of bulky waste. Residents need to make a booking with the local cleaning team to schedule a date and pickup location. Bulky waste items such as bed mattresses and frames, carts, bicycles, electric fans, gas stoves, large water dispensers, sofas, tables and chairs, cabinets, waste electrical appliances, and luggage cases are included in the collection.
In Seoul, South Korea, bulky household waste mainly refers to furniture and electrical appliances. A waste sticker must be purchased from the local government and attached to such waste for disposal. Collection fees vary across items and districts. Residents need to bring the bulky waste to a designated location for pick-up or take it to local recycling centers. Since 2012, the Ministry of Environment has introduced a free collection service for disused (but not broken) home appliances in Seoul.
In Berlin, Germany, the collection of bulky waste is arranged by a public waste collector upon request, and a collection fee is based on the volume of the items being disposed of. It is necessary to book the collection in advance, usually one to six weeks prior. Dropping off bulky items with a volume under three cubic meters at recycling centers is free of charge.
Electrical and Electronic Equipment Recycling
In Berlin, Germany, there are "eBox" collection points located on city streets for the public waste collector to collect small appliances. Residents can also take these appliances to prescribed vendors or specific recycling centers. Under the producer responsibility scheme, vendors are obligated to take back old equipment for free when a new one is sold. This ensures that the responsibility for the proper disposal and recycling of electronic equipment is shared between producers and vendors, promoting sustainable waste management practices.
Hazardous Waste Recycling
Since 2016, McDonald's restaurants in Hong Kong have been designated as public collection points for the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Programme. This means that members of the public who intend to recycle rechargeable batteries can approach restaurant staff at McDonald's restaurants to deposit their batteries for recycling through the programme. This initiative promotes sustainable waste management practices by providing convenient and accessible collection points for the public to dispose of their rechargeable batteries. By partnering with a popular restaurant chain, the programme also raises public awareness about the importance of responsible battery disposal and the need to reduce electronic waste.
WEEE·PARK in Hong Kong refurbishes serviceable electrical appliances, such as refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, and televisions, for donation to people in need. To apply for a refurbished appliance, individuals need to be referred by a registered social worker. This initiative helps to provide essential appliances to those who may not have the means to purchase them, promoting social welfare and reducing electronic waste through reuse.
Founded in the Netherlands in 2017, the startup called Excess Materials Exchange (EME) operates as a marketplace and digital matching platform. Similar to a dating website, organizations can post their excess materials and see if other companies are interested in acquiring them. The platform facilitates the matching of supply and demand for these materials or products, while also finding new high-value reuse options for materials or waste products. EME is dedicated to accelerating the global transition to a circular economy and contributing to the creation of a more sustainable planet.
Set up partnerships with charities to donate textiles, electronic appliances, and furniture to disadvantaged communities. If donation is not an option, consider the available recycling programs and collection points through the "WasteLess" app.
Making the business a designated public collection point for batteries can foster behavioral change among staff and customers. These can be then disposed of at the MTR stations and other collection points.
Regarding bulky waste, restaurants need to plan for its removal. It is important to plan the restaurant design with circularity in mind and plan ahead if items need to be removed for the reuse of furniture.
To avoid being wasteful with electronics, try extending their usage by buying a protective case, keeping it clean, avoiding overcharging the battery, repairing an item rather than throwing it away, etc.
Whenever possible, replace disposable batteries with rechargeable batteries as they last longer and are better for the environment.
Avoid throwing away office furniture if it can be of use to someone else. Consider selling surplus or redundant items online through platforms such as Facebook Marketplace or Carousell or find out if local charities will accept them. Additionally, some suppliers offer take-back schemes for their products so they can be reused or recycled as mentioned above.
Recycling does not solve the environmental issues we face; it simply addresses one of the symptoms. The best possible way to contribute to a better environment is to reduce the amount of waste created through prudent purchasing decisions and buying second-hand to minimize our personal impact.
We encourage the Hong Kong government to take a leadership role in creating a circular economy model for textiles and WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), moving away from the current linear system. The introduction of a regulated Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS) for clothing and textile products can be feasible, taking inspiration from the current WEEE PRS as a model for complex materials recovery.
While EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) schemes cannot be considered a magical solution to address waste management, they do help to channel activities in the right direction and create a powerful tool to develop robust waste policies. It is important to note that EPR schemes are just one instrument in the toolbox and should be combined with other types of tools such as regulatory frameworks, fiscal tools (pay-as-you-throw schemes, landfill taxes), standards, public procurement policies, and more.
To read the original report, click here.