Hongkongers are sending an estimated 1.5 million Covid-19 rapid tests – weighing 60 tonnes – to landfill every day, the city’s environment chief has told lawmakers.

A Covid-19 rapid test cassette. Photo: Rob Long, via Unsplash.

“While we have no separate statistics on such quantity, assuming that on average about 1.5 million RAT kits are used per day in Hong Kong and each on average weighs about 40 grams, their total weight would be about 60 tonnes,” Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan told pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Hoi-yan on Wednesday.

He said that the situation was temporary and would not put pressure on landfills.

A landfill. in Hong Kong. File Photo: GovHK.

Chan had asked Tse about the environmental impact of the city’s use of Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) . Under strict, ongoing anti-epidemic rules, students, key workers, people visiting bars, as well as tour groups and international arrivals are among the groups who are required by the authorities to take frequent – if not daily – rapid tests.

See also: A Covid-19 ‘living museum’ – is Hong Kong really ‘back in business?’

Revellers must show a photo of a negative result from an RAT before entering bars, clubs or banquets, while students and teachers must show one every day to enter school premises. Travellers arriving in Hong Kong must submit the results from RATs taken every day during their first week in the city to the government.

Secretary for Environment and Ecology (designate) Tse Chin-wan. Photo: GovHK.

Tse added that recycling was not possible as the testing solution in RATs contain chemical substances, plus there was the possibility that users may be infected with the coronavirus.

“Currently, various manufacturers of RAT kits around the world are supplying their products to international markets. Therefore, there is not much room for the Government to negotiate with individual manufacturers on changes to packaging or manufacturing materials of RAT kits,” he said.

According to the government’s Covid-19 dashboard, the city has seen 2.05 million cases and 10,634 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.