Four ways our city can make its producer responsibility scheme for e-waste a success

The Producer Responsibility Scheme for unwanted electrical and electronic equipment was launched on August 1. Unfortunately, it met with some teething problems and triggered criticism.
I welcome the “producer pays” principle and the new legislation, as in the past there was no control over how the recycling industry handled the 70,000 tonnes of e-waste generated annually in the city, with 80 per cent exported and the rest disposed of at our landfill sites, despite the presence of toxic substances.
As an advanced city, Hong Kong does need legislation to drive producers, recyclers and consumers to handle e-waste in an environmentally responsible manner. To improve the scheme, here are a few suggestions for the government and Alba IWS, the contractor appointed to handle the e-waste, to consider.
Firstly, Alba should stick to the promise made by Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing that the free removal service for old appliances will be carried out within three days of purchase, as this is a mandatory service sellers must provide when a new regulated appliance is bought.
Secondly, the government could take action to prevent retailers from persuading consumers to choose other paid-for removal services, without clearly informing them of the free removal service that is available and to be arranged by the retailer.
Thirdly, Alba can improve removal efficiency by collaborating with retailers or recyclers who can provide quicker removal services, acting as the additional limbs of Alba.
In the past, when retailers delivered a new appliance to consumers, it was standard practice to remove the old one immediately and put it onto their delivery trucks. If they could keep providing this service, it would help ease Alba’s workload. Alba could offer a reasonable fee to the collaborating parties based on the number of items they deliver to the government’s waste treatment and recycling facility or its regional centres.
Fourthly, if possible, the list of retailers licensed to sell the regulated appliances and their prices before August 1 should be made public. We suggest that the latest list be uploaded to a government website for the public to check before making purchases, so that consumers can avoid visiting retailers that cannot provide the free removal service.
Media reports said that some retailers intended to raise their prices beyond the top level of the recycling levy. If consumers can view the original price of the regulated appliances they want to buy on a government website, they can then choose environmentally responsible retailers who do not pass the levy on to consumers. These environmentally responsible retailers are then likely to get more business and earn a better corporate image in the end.
Edwin Lau
Executive Director of The Green Earth
13 August 2018 SCMP