Research: Majority of US e-waste ends up in Hong Kong

A research by US-based environmental group Basel Action Network found that Hong Kong has become a dumping ground for US electronic waste. Hong Kong has replaced China to become ground zero for toxic electronic materials.
Thüringer Landhaus Ilmenau,
Thüringer Landhaus Ilmenau,

Basel Action Network attached 200 GPS trackers on broken electronic items in the US. The group found that many of the trackers ended up in dumping grounds in Hong Kong’s New Territories.

Sixty-five of the 200 trackers were found to have been exported out of the US and 37 of those were exported to Hong Kong, BAN found. Only 8 trackers were detected in China.

“These findings are very different than our findings over the past decade, when it was observed that the vast majority of e-waste from North America went to China, and most of that to Guiyu, a township and region in Guangdong Province,” the BAN report said.

BAN’s research estimated that 65 of the items being exported out of the US were illegal shipments due to the laws in the importing country or regional government.

“Ironically, it appears that Hong Kong, usually thought of as one of the most technologically and economically advanced areas of China, has not enforced the Chinese import ban as diligently as mainland China has done, and appears to have, in fact, become a new pollution haven,” the report added.

Democratic legislators in Hong Kong called upon the government to investigate open air dumping grounds in the New Territories.

Democratic Party vice chairman Andrew Wan Siu-kin said he had been tracking two sites, which he suspected as places where e-waste was stored and possibly processed.

“There’s no way out [for the materials], it’s contaminating Hong Kong’s environment,” said Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wa. He said that Hong Kong lacked a tracking system for monitoring e-waste. “The mainland tightened ¬controls almost two years ago, so now it is more and more likely that this material is remaining in Hong Kong,” said Mr. Chi-wa.

Hong Kong legislators said that the region has failed where China has succeeded in enforcing its ban on importing hazardous waste.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has said that the country is thought to generate 3.14 million tonnes of e-waste annually. Recyclers in the country are opting to export the goods rather than process them domestically due to a bear market for many commodities found in e-waste.

The Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department said that it had immediately initiated an investigation against the alleged recycling sites in the New Territories. “The EPD will not tolerate any hazardous e-waste being illegally imported to Hong Kong,” said a spokesman.

The spokesman added the EPD has urged BAN to provide US authorities “with relevant information at the same time to facilitate interception at source.”


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