LCQ13: Disposal of waste car batteries


Hong Kong (HKSAR) - Following is a question by the Hon Frankie Yick and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (May 25):

Question:

According to the Waste Disposal Ordinance (Cap 354) and its Subsidiary Legislation C, the Waste Disposal (Chemical Waste) (General) Regulation, waste car batteries, which contain pollutants such as lead and sulphuric acid, are classified as chemical waste subject to regulation and hence must be collected by licensed chemical waste collectors for delivery to licensed chemical waste treatment facilities for disposal. However, it is learnt that the number of authorized recycling or disposal facilities for waste car batteries (R/D facilities) has reduced from two in the past to one at present. Given that there are nearly 700 000 vehicles currently registered in Hong Kong and car batteries generally have a life expectancy of two to three years only, meaning that at least 200 000 car batteries need to be recycled and treated each year, some members of the vehicle maintenance trade have suspected that some of the waste car batteries have been discarded indiscriminately because there are insufficient R/D facilities.

In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the respective quantities of waste car batteries collected in each of the past three years by various licensed collectors of waste batteries and by R/D facilities; among them, the respective quantities of waste car batteries which, after treatment, were (i) delivered to landfills, (ii) recycled for re-use and (iii) exported to places outside Hong Kong;

(2) whether it has looked into the reasons why only one R/D facility remains in operation at present; whether the authorities have provided adequate support to the operator concerned, so as to help it resolve the difficulties in business operation; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether it knows the maximum quantity of waste car batteries which may be treated each year by the only R/D facility at present; whether it has assessed if such capacity can meet the market demand; if it has assessed and the outcome is in the negative, of the measures the authorities have in place, before any new R/D facilities can be provided, to ensure that all waste car batteries will be properly treated;

(4) given the continuous upward trend of the number of registered vehicles, whether the authorities will take measures to increase the number of R/D facilities; if they will, of the details; if not, the measures the authorities have in place to prevent indiscriminate discard of waste car batteries which have not been properly treated, thereby causing environmental pollution and posing hazards to public health; and

(5) whether it will consider including car batteries in the mandatory producer responsibility schemes; if it will, of the details, and the expected timetable for implementation; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

Waste car batteries are in general lead-acid batteries which are chemical waste and regulated under the Waste Disposal Ordinance and the Waste Disposal (Chemical Waste) (General) Regulation (the Regulation). Under the Regulation, waste lead-acid battery producers such as vehicle repair workshops must register with the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), while waste lead-acid battery collectors and disposal facilities must be licensed and are required to handle waste lead-acid batteries in accordance with the licence conditions. Import and export of waste lead-acid batteries are controlled under the Waste Disposal Ordinance, and a permit must be obtained from the EPD for each import or export case.

(1) According to the trip ticket records of chemical waste, the annual average amount of waste lead-acid batteries (mainly waste car batteries) collected and disposed of by local licensed waste collectors over the past three years was about 1 200 tonnes.

There are currently two licensed facilities in Hong Kong for disposal of waste lead-acid batteries, one being the West New Territories (WENT) Landfill and the other one being a chemical waste treatment facility in the Yuen Long Industrial Estate (YLIE). An average of over 700 tonnes of waste lead-acid batteries are delivered to the WENT Landfill every year, where they are disposed of as chemical waste at designated areas in the landfill. The remaining over 400 tonnes of waste lead-acid batteries receive preliminary treatment at the chemical waste treatment facility in the YLIE before they are exported to overseas recycling facilities according to the permits granted for the facility.

(2) The EPD has been supportive to recyclers for adopting advanced and value-added recycling technologies.

Leasing lots within the EcoPark in Tuen Mun by open tender is one of the measures to enhance sustainable development of the local recycling industry. A lot within the EcoPark was let to a recycler in 2009 for operating a waste battery treatment facility. Despite assistance from the EPD in various aspects including repeated postponement of the date of commissioning as stated in the tenancy agreement, the recycler failed to meet the relevant legal requirements including the licensing requirements as a chemical waste disposal facility.

Having regard to the principles of optimising utilisation of precious land resources and ensuring fairness of tender exercises, the EPD has terminated the tenancy agreement according to its terms and conditions. Legal proceedings are underway for repossession of the lot and recovery of mesne profits, with a view to repossessing and re-letting the lot as early as possible.

(3) and (4) The two existing disposal facilities for waste lead-acid batteries have adequate capacity for handling the waste car batteries collected locally. The WENT Landfill can properly dispose of 14 600 tonnes of waste lead-acid batteries every year, while the licensed chemical waste treatment facility in the YLIE can treat a maximum of some 1 800 tonnes of waste lead-acid batteries every year for recycling overseas.

Both facilities have maintained their normal operation and their total capacity is sufficient to cope with the local demand for disposal of waste lead-acid batteries. Besides, the EcoPark has allocated a lot to another recycler for a treatment facility for waste lead-acid batteries. Site formation works for the plant are under way and the layout and building plan is being finalised.

Upon commissioning of the facility, it will help further enhance the local capacity of waste lead-acid battery recycling and disposal.

(5) Waste lead-acid batteries are chemical waste for which a statutory system has been in place regulating its safe and proper disposal.At present, the Government has no plan to introduce a mandatory producer responsibility scheme for car batteries.




Published on: 2016-05-25

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