A recycling scheme for computers and four types of electrical equipment came into effect on Wednesday. Buyers of certain types of electrical items can request a free removal service for old gear of the same type at home. Accredited collectors will then take the items away for recycling.

The scheme will cover air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, computers, printers, scanners and monitors. Sellers of the new equipment will need to pay the government HK$15 to HK$165 per item to finance the removal service, though some have said they will transfer the cost to consumers via a price hike.

Wong Kam-sing
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“The rationale is… if we throw away old equipment when we buy new ones, it will damage the environment,” said Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing. “They may contain heavy metals and harmful chemicals.”

Wong said that most sellers of the regulated equipment have already registered with the government. The sellers will notify customers about the scheme, and will pay a quarterly recycling levy to the Environmental Protection Department.

Responding to concerns that the removal service may be too slow, Wong said that – in most cases – collectors will arrive three days after a purchase is made. He also said the collectors – including government-approved contractor Alba IWS – have enough capacity to handle demand.

ewaste e-waste pollution
File photo GovHK.

“Usually, consumers can coordinate with the store to arrange for delivery of the new equipment and removal of the old one to fall on the same day,” he said, adding that most consumers will only need same-day removal in extreme cases.

Wong admitted that the scheme only regulates sellers, not buyers. It is not illegal to dispose of old electrical equipment like regular trash, though Wong asked citizens to exercise “self-control” and use the removal service instead.

Jacky Cheung Yiu-shing, founding president of the Hong Kong WEEE Recycling Association, said that 90 per cent of appliance buyers want a removal service, but the figure may be lower for computer buyers.

Alba IWS Carrie Lam Wong Kam-shing
Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Wong Kam-shing visit a recycling plant run by Alba IWS. Photo: Alba IWS.

He said that the price increase for computers will be limited: “For the average consumer, it is not a bad thing for them to pay HK$15 to fulfil their civic duty,” Cheung said.

Wong said that the prices of electrical equipment fluctuate regularly and depend on many factors. He said that there is enough competition between sellers so that consumers need not worry about a price hike.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.