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Hong Kong recycling rate ‘drastically overstated’

China – Officials have admitted Hong Kong’s recycling rate – once estimated at more than 50% – has been ‘drastically overstated’, reports the South China Morning Post.

China′s Environmental Protection Department (MEP) reported a significantly lower recycling rate of 39% for 2012, well down on the 48% of the previous year and a far cry from the claimed 52% for 2010.

Hong Kong recycled ′just 2.16 million tonnes of waste in 2012′, which is 860 000 tonnes less than 2011, according to MEP. About 60% of the decline was the result of a severe drop in the trade of plastic waste, of which reportedly 320 000 tonnes was recycled last year compared to 840 000 tonnes in 2011 and 1.58 million tonnes in 2010.

Recycling figures for Hong Kong were ′distorted by external factors′ beyond their control, MEP officials note. They cite fluctuations in the waste trade and irregularities in export declarations as the main issues in establishing an accurate recycling rate. 

The system for calculating Hong Kong’s recycling performance will be overhauled, with data collection to be improved by the implementation of measures recommended by a yet-to-be-commissioned consultant. But according to MEP, it is unlikely that the ‘distortion’ will influence policy-making or the achievement of targets as detailed in the last year’s waste management blueprint.

Some industry parties such as the World Green Organisation are wary of the ‘inflation of the recycling rate’. Its chief executive William Yu Yuen-ping argues that MEP should convene an ‘expert group’ to review the system. The government would also benefit from setting up a registration system for recyclers in order to get first-hand recycling data, it has been suggested.

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