Two innovative recycling programs in Hong Kong give to people in need

Two innovative recycling programs in Hong Kong give to people in need

29 December 2016

By Ritsuo Arao, Asia Representative/Business Development Manager

According to Discover Hong Kong, the amount of retail space dedicated to gadgetry and electronics in the city is “probably only challenged by jewellery [sic] shops and convenience stores.” With lack of sales tax and import duty, bargains can be had on all things electronic. And while “people in Hong Kong often own more than one handset and change models frequently,” retail prices are competitive, offerings are comprehensive, and products “not only keep up with, but often precede, world trends.”

The mega sales result in, according to Hong Kong Waste Reduction Website, an estimated 6 million-plus computers and accessories finding use in Hong Kong, with about one fifth of them being replaced each year—to the tune of more than 70 thousand tons of computers and electrical and electronic equipment being disposed of.

Although most of the discarded computers and their accessories are recycled/reused through Hong Kong’s demanding, knowledgeable, and thriving B2C second-hand electronics market — with shops in every neighborhood accepting all types of used, recent-model, working-condition electronics, from phones to tablets to PCs to TVs and other small appliances — this market is less interested in broken or obsolete electronics, and so a small fraction of Hong Kong’s disposed-of electronics ends up in landfills.

That’s where two innovative eWaste recycling programs come in…

The Computer & Communication Products Recycling Program (CCRP) and WEEE Go Green not only answer the call to avoid and reduce the quantity of eWaste being deposited in landfills (and thereby reduce the attendant harm to people and the environment), the two innovative eWaste recycling programs go a step further: They increase the availability of electronics and accessories to those in need.

The Computer & Communication Products Recycling Program (CCRP) 

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) (of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) launched a pilot recovery program in January 2003, which has recovered and processed nearly 150,000 waste computers and computer accessories — and made the recovered and recycled products available to needy families.

Well-received by the public, the EPD’s pilot program grew to become the Computer & Communication Products Recycling Program (CCRP)  in 2015.

The CCRP’s operations are steered by a Programme Committee comprising representatives from participating computer equipment suppliers and the Chamber of the Hong Kong Computer Industry. Honorary members include representatives from four green groups (Friends of the Earth, Green Power, Environmental Association and World Green Organisation). The EPD acts as the Programme’s advisor and helps promote the CCRP to the public.

The CCRP collects used computers and computer parts for refurbishment and recycling. The charitable organization Caritas (Hong Kong) helps them refurbish computers still in working condition and donates them to families and individuals in need. The CCRP also has appointed a commercial recycler to dismantle the remaining used computers and recover useful parts and materials.

The CCRP accepts desktop computers, laptops, computer monitors (cathode-ray tube and LCD types), printers, scanners, all computer-related products such as keyboards, memory sticks, mouse units, headsets and speakers, and communication products such as mobile phones, DECT phones, pagers, walkie-talkies and routers.

The CCRP-appointed contractor collects used computers and computer accessories on a regular basis and brings them to a workshop where they are divided into two groups: Computers and parts in working order are handed over to Caritas for refurbishment and donation to the needy; malfunctioning units are dismantled by the appointed recycler to recover their useful parts and materials.

WEEE Go Green Program Hong Kong

Beginning in October 2010, St James’ Settlement was granted 3-year funding support from the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) to implement the WEEE GO GREEN. Managed by the Christian organization St. James’ Settlement (which provides social welfare programs and services to those in need) and with a recycling network and point-to-point collection service throughout Hong Kong, the WEEE GO GREEN project aims to establish “the most comprehensive waste electrical and electronic equipment recycling centre in Hong Kong.” It also aims for zero waste.

Through donations of appliances by corporations, companies, citizens, electronic brands, hotels, banks, residential estates at collection points and mobile collection points, old and new appliances benefit families in need and help create a better environment for Hong Kong. (Citizens are also encouraged to deliver appliances to collection stations located in each district.)

Each repairable appliance is refurbished. The safely refurbished and reusable appliances are given to families with needs. Leftover reusable appliances are taken to charity sales in order to extend their lifespan. For devices that can’t be repaired, materials and electronic components are sold to qualified recyclers. Zero waste is sent to the landfills.

The collection is focused on major designated items, namely television sets, refrigerators, washing machines, video or audio equipment, microwave ovens, fans, water heaters, rice cookers, air-conditioners, heaters, electronic games and mobile phones.

A few of EPD’s innovations enhance public awareness of eWaste recycling and make collections easy: their mobile collection vehicle, which visits a different district each week, collects electrical appliances, computers, rechargeable batteries, compact fluorescent lamps and fluorescent tubes. (More here.)

With the launch of its helpdesk with a hotline, EPD can offer service six days a week, assisting the public, property management, and representatives of housing estates and buildings to recycle their electronics. With the hotline, the public can request on-site collection for certain items and inquire about other eWaste recycling programs. (More here.)

With EDP and WEEE Go Green, Hong Kong does more than keep its electronics on the leading edge; now it can be a leader in cleaning up its communities while helping its citizens in need get a boost, as well.

Featured photo is used under a Creative Commons license. Photographer: Wonderlane