Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing was grilled yesterday in the Legislative Council over poor handling of 120,000 styrofoam boxes ferried into Hong Kong every day that are being discarded after use and piling up on roadsides across the city.
Wong said the administration has stepped up inter-departmental collaboration and adopted a multi-pronged approach to reduce the problem.
Gary Chan Hak-kan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said the boxes, used to brings in fruits and vegetables, are a mounting problem, as the mainland cited Covid
-19 for the refusal to take them back for reuse.
"Around 120,000 boxes arrive every day, with a total weight of 48 tonnes," Chan said.
Wong said the Food and Health Bureau and the agriculture, fisheries and conservation and environmental protection departments will work jointly to develop measures to deal with the problem.
The SAR, he added, is checking with the mainland to see if they can be disinfected and reused.
"The FEHD disinfects on average 40,000 to 50,000 boxes a day," Wong said, "while the AFCD and private contractors also dispose of them.
"Meanwhile, some styrofoam boxes are handled and recycled through local recyclers," said Wong.
Environmental officials are said to be trying to get recyclers to raise short-term capacity that Wong said would rise to seven tonnes a day.
The three departments are liaising with the mainland on the basis of epidemic prevention and control to explore the possibility of formulating solutions.
"We are thinking about a scheme including making arrangements on workflow and standard for disinfection of styrofoam boxes to reuse," said Wong.
Monitoring of the marine environment so far has shown no increase in styrofoam refuse.
Chan questioned whether the measures would take too much time to implement and undermine public confidence in environmental policies.
Wong said the administration would issue policies as soon as possible since styrofoam is an important material that has a thermal insulation effect and can be reusable.