The Basel Action Network (BAN), the organization that documented massive smuggling and recycling fraud in New Territories last year must strongly agree with Friends of the Earth, Hong Kong in their opinion that the New Territories electronics junk yard operators must not be allowed any special delays in meeting the new e-waste recycling legislation.
For more than a decade I personally have observed these so-called recyclers operating in Hong Kong’s New Territories behind tall steel fences. Most recently BAN has observed the facilities by following GPS tracking devices that have left the ports of my country — the US. Today our tracking devices placed into US wastes continue to end-up in New Territories.
These parasitic “businesses” take advantage of the fact that the United States has not ratified the Basel Convention as the rest of the world has done, and can legally export difficult and toxic e-wastes with impunity to avoid the high-costs of legal management at home. The e-waste junkyards in New Territories import this material almost for free and then employ illegal laborers, and weak land-use laws, to profit from irresponsible, environmentally damaging operations that brings shame to the word “recycling”. And, until now, due to the limited enforcement capacity of the Hong Kong EPD and the low penalties levied by judges on those that are prosecuted, these polluters have simply had to pay a small fine and continue their polluting ways.
BAN has seen no good reason for them any of them not to have been shut down by the government a long time ago as virtually every one of these facilities is breaking the law and continues to do so even after being warned or penalized. Nevertheless, we were relieved to see last year that the government was finally going to require these operators to submit to being properly permitted by year’s end, and required to operate under the most basic legal norms for facilities handling hazardous wastes in 2018.
Now, though, like spoiled children it appears that they are throwing a tantrum and believe that by doing so, they can expect to be coddled some more, given another year of reprieve for now — and later, who knows, they can push hard to soften the law or cry again?
If this were not a matter of a history of repeated disdain for the law; if it were not a matter of human health and irreversible environmental destruction, a delay might be justifiable. In this case, however, with repeat offenses commonplace while workers and the surroundings are poisoned on an hourly basis, such a delay would be criminal neglect by the government.
Surely, the ultimate role of any government is to protect the health and lives of its population. There is simply no justification for abandoning that supreme duty for any length of time.
Jim Puckett, Executive Director
Basel Action Network
For more information contact:
Jim Puckett, e-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on BAN investigations on New Territories: