The Environment Protection Department (EPD) has revealed around 22,200 tonnes of used tyres, the equivalent of around 1.9 million car tyres or a million truck tyres, are buried in Hong Kong’s landfills every year, almost seven times the figure given by Transport and Housing Secretary Frank Chan Fan in LegCo last week.
Transit Jam requested the figures from the Environment Bureau (ENB) after numbers given by the transport minister didn’t appear to add up. During a LegCo meeting on Wednesday, Chan had told lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming that 3,400 tonnes of tyres were disposed of at landfill but that 6,600 tonnes were recycled, representing, he said, a 23% recycling rate. That recycling rate would leave a gap of some 18,000 tonnes unaccounted for.
Lawmaker Yick also questioned the gap, saying later his own data estimated that significantly more tyres must be landfilled than Chan had revealed. “Where does the rest of 12,000 tonnes of waste tyres go?” he said of Chan’s LegCo answer, based on his own estimates of the true waste picture.
EPD today put the record straight, with a spokeswoman saying Hong Kong generated 28,800 tonnes of waste tyres in 2019, of which 22,200 tonnes were disposed of in landfills, and, as Chan had said, 6,600 tonnes were recovered for recycling. EPD also said of the landfilled tyres, government and contractors collected 3,400 tonnes while 18,800 tonnes were collected by the non-government sector, indicating that Chan had given figures only for government or contractor disposal of tyres rather than the whole picture.
Yick, who chairs LegCo’s Transport Panel, told Transit Jam he has been urging ENB to improve handling of tyres and waste batteries for years.
“Hong Kong also has waste tyre recycling facilities with sufficient capacity to take care of all waste tyres. The issue of why their recycling volumes is far below their capacity is mainly because of the cost issue.”
Yick said the waste tyre business was plagued with the same problems as the waste battery business, where illegal operators price legitimate recycling out of the market.
“The market price [offered for] waste batteries by illegal operators is far more than the proper recycling plant can afford. The same applies to waste tyres,” he said.
“I suggested to ENB they should introduce the ‘Producer Responsibility Scheme’ on these two wastes so that pollution could be avoided. The levy, in my view, is just a few hundreds dollars per year for the vehicle owners, which should not be a problem at all.”
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