The government says it will implement temporary measures after recycling firms said they will halt paper collection for a week.
The industry association said on Friday that they would go on strike for a week in protest of a mainland ban on recycling imports.
China told the World Trade Organisation in July that it would stop accepting shipments of 24 types of plastic, paper, and metal recyclables, an announcement that has caused concern among the global recycling industry. The import ban is set to go into effect at the end of the year.
At a press briefing on Friday, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the government would implement emergency measures to deal with the strike.
Wong said the SAR government is closely communicating with mainland authorities and explaining Hong Kong’s situation.
Asked when the mainland is expected to provide a response, he said they would “wait and see.”
Wong said temporary measures include the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department increasing street cleaning and increasing the collection of scrap paper. He also said recycling points run by the Environmental Protection Department would increase their scrap paper recycling services, and that storage space would be made available at EcoPark, a facility in Tuen Mun.
“[T]he temporary provisions jointly provided by EPD and the FEHD should be able to cope with that situation,” he said.
He urged residents to reduce consumption of materials and make sure they are clean before recycling. He added that the government would increase communication and support for the recycling industry.
“The country and other places will gradually increase their recycling policies, which will affect Hong Kong on different levels. We must understand and respect it. At the same time, [the policies] will hold dangers and opportunities for Hong Kong.”
Lau Yiu-shing, the director of the Hong Kong Recycle Materials & Re-production Business General Association – which includes over 95 per cent of the recycling sector as its members – said: “If it has an impact on the lives of lower-class elderly people, then we express our deep regret, but our action will not be held for very long,” he said, adding that the association has ways to help those in need.
Some elderly people in Hong Kong receive a modest income from collecting paper for recycling.
Lau said the members of the association stand to lose over HK$2.7 million per day in exports.