27th February 2021 – (Hong Kong) The Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, went to Lai Chi Wo this morning to learn more about the work of the Countryside Conservation Office (CCO) under the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in co-ordinating countryside conservation projects and promoting the sustainable development of remote countryside areas. She then visited various recycling facilities under the EPD and its contractors.
The CCO was established in 2018, and HK$1 billion was earmarked by the Government to support its work on conservation of the remote countryside, with half of the funding dedicated to minor improvement works in remote countryside areas, and half reserved for supporting non-profit-making organisations to promote conservation and revitalisation projects in the remote countryside via the Countryside Conservation Funding Scheme (CCFS). Mrs Lam and the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, visited Lai Chi Wo in the morning, and were briefed by CCO colleagues on minor improvement works carried out at Lai Chi Wo.
The relevant works near Lai Chi Wo covered trail restoration, public toilet improvements, the commissioning of a consultancy study on feasible options for improving sewage collection at Lai Chi Wo, conducting geospatial analyses via photogrammetry to show the landscape, topography and facilities of Lai Chi Wo, etc. Mrs Lam was pleased to note that the relevant projects have not only benefitted local villagers and the villagers who have returned to live there by providing them with basic living facilities, the projects have also brought convenience to visitors, promoted local eco-tourism and created job opportunities. A total of 17 projects were approved by the CCFS from the end of 2019 to February this year, of which seven were related to Lai Chi Wo and its neighbouring villages with a subsidy totalling HK$33 million.
Mrs Lam also received a briefing from colleagues on the work to help people who are interested in operating guesthouses and catering businesses at Lai Chi Wo to discuss with relevant departments matters relating to the application of licences. She said that as pointed out in the 2020 Policy Address Supplement, the Government will develop a set of licensing requirements and procedural guidelines designed especially for guesthouses and catering businesses in countryside areas, having regard to the special nature and restrictions of rural settings. Various government departments will support and co-operate with the relevant work of the CCO to revitalise villages and promote eco-tourism. The CCFS promotes diverse and innovative conservation projects and activities, which will also help create more job opportunities in the green industry.
After departing Lai Chi Wo, Mrs Lam, accompanied by Mr Wong, visited the facilities of EPD contractors providing recycling services in relation to glass containers and plastics. To prepare for the full implementation of the Producer Responsibility Scheme on Glass Beverage Containers, the EPD’s glass management contractors have undertaken free collection and treatment services for waste glass containers across the territory since early 2018. Mrs Lam visited the contractor responsible for the collection and treatment services for waste glass containers in Kowloon, noting that the quantity of waste glass containers collected in 2018 has exceeded 13,000 tonnes since the commencement of the services, representing an increase of 60 per cent when compared with the volume collected under the relevant voluntary recycling programme in 2017. The quantity collected in 2019 was about 21,000 tonnes, which was a further increase of nearly 60 per cent over the quantity collected in 2018. There was also a significant increase in the total number of glass container collection points set up across the territory, with the number of collection points doubling from about 2 000 at the commencement of the services in early 2018 to about 4,000 at present.
In addition, the EPD has commenced a two-year pilot scheme on the collection and recycling of waste plastics in Eastern District, Kwun Tong and Sha Tin progressively since January last year. The pilot scheme can help raise local recycling capabilities, support the development of the recycling industry producing environmental-friendly products, and enhance the recovery rate of waste plastics. Mrs Lam visited the contractor of the pilot scheme on recycling of waste plastics in Eastern District and Kwun Tong to learn more about its plastics recycling facilities. She noted that since the pilot scheme started in Eastern District and Kwun Tong in January last year and July respectively, about 156 and 144 housing estates and buildings in the two respective districts have registered for the pilot scheme service as at January this year, covering about 47 per cent and 73 per cent of the population of Eastern District and Kwun Tong, achieving a collection volume of about 360 tonnes (for about a year) and 85 tonnes (for about half a year) respectively.
The last stop of the visit was the Tuen Mun Community Green Station (CGS), which is an EPD recycling station in Tuen Mun with smart waste bins and Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs). Mrs Lam was briefed by EPD personnel on the pilot programme on the smart recycling system. Under the pilot programme, the Eastern CGS, the Tai Kok Tsui CGS and the Tuen Mun CGS installed a round-the-clock smart recycling system with an overflow alert. The system can automatically measure and record the weight of recyclables collected, and save recycle bonus points. It can also help provide more appropriate education, promotion and services to the community and individuals in accordance with big data analysis.
The EPD launched a three-month public consultation on the Producer Responsibility Scheme on Plastic Beverage Containers (PPRS) on 22nd February this year. To facilitate the future implementation of the scheme, the EPD has rolled out a one-year RVM Pilot Scheme in phases in the first quarter of this year to test whether the RVMs help with the recovery of plastic beverage containers in Hong Kong. Mrs Lam noted that instant rebates will be provided for each plastic beverage container properly returned to an RVM. Members of the public may also choose to donate the rebate to designated charities (the Community Chest of Hong Kong, the Scout Association of Hong Kong or the Hong Kong Girl Guides Association).
The Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Recycling Fund, Mr Jimmy Kwok, also joined the visit to inspect recycling facilities with Mrs Lam and Mr Wong. The Recycling Fund was established in 2015 to promote the sustainable development of the recycling industry, while the advisory committee would advise and make recommendations to the Government on matters relating to the overall administration and operation of the fund. Mrs Lam was pleased to note that since its establishment, the Recycling Fund has approved 1,670 applications with a total subsidy of about HK$600 million, involving various recyclable materials such as waste paper, plastics, metal, wood and food waste.
“Reducing carbon emissions and waste is a global trend. The Government has been adopting a multi-pronged approach to promote waste reduction at source and clean recycling for various materials. I conducted two visits to different recycling facilities of the EPD this month and note that the EPD has been leveraging innovation and technology, coupled with the enhancement of the awareness of waste reduction among members of the public, to expand the recycling network in the community and the local recycling services, in order to achieve the goal of transforming waste to energy and turning waste into resources. I believe that the series of measures implemented in recent years will take root to encourage clean recycling in the community and nurture green living habits of the public, help realise the vision of ‘Waste Reduction‧Resources Circulation‧Zero Landfill’ set out in the Waste Blueprint for Hong Kong 2035, and support the move towards carbon neutrality in Hong Kong before 2050,” Mrs Lam said.