Provisional LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

Control on Import and Export of Waste


This paper summarises the background and the present position on the control on import and export of waste in Hong Kong.

Basel Convention

2. Recent years have seen an increase in international trade in waste. Whilst the recovery of waste materials from legitimate recycling activities should be encouraged, the international community is concerned about the potential adverse impacts of non-recyclable or hazardous waste. This led to the conclusion of an international agreement, known as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which provides a framework for controlling the transboundary movement of hazardous and other wastes. The main control mechanism is to effect a system of prior notification and consent by the authorities of the states of import, export and transit prior to the commencement of shipments of hazardous or non-recyclable waste. Both the United Kingdom and China are Parties to the Basel Convention, which has also been extended to Hong Kong.

Waste Import and Export Activities in Hong Kong

3. Hong Kong's geographical location and free port status have made it a major entrepot for the Asian-Pacific Region. Huge volumes of cargo, including waste materials, pass through Hong Kong every day. Hong Kong's waste trade amounted to $20 billion in 1996, most of which were non- hazardous and recyclable waste, such as waste paper and scrap metals. Detailed statistics for 1994-96 are as follows:-


(million tonnes)


(billion HK$)



(incl. re-export)



(incl. re-export)
















Legislative Control

4. On 1 September 1996, Hong Kong implemented a permit control for all import and export of waste. A permit is required for the import and export of any waste that is hazardous or contaminated or destined for a purpose other than reuse or recycling. The control system was designed to tie in with the requirements of the Basel Convention. The intent of the control scheme is clear. Whilst the movement of hazardous or non-recyclable waste is placed under stringent permit control to ensure their proper management, legitimate trade and recycling of non-hazardous waste are allowed to continue without interference in order to conserve raw materials. The enhanced control scheme has been widely publicized to the local waste traders, the shipping industry and Hong Kong's major waste trade partners.

5. Since 1 September 1996, the EPD has received 18 permit applications for the import or export of hazardous or contaminated waste. Following liaison with the relevant competent authorities outside Hong Kong, as required under the Hong Kong legislation and/or the Basel Convention, the EPD has so far issued 8 permits (5 export and 3 import permits) and rejected 7 applications.

6. In 1997, the EPD has also received 22 notifications under the Basel Convention for transit of hazardous waste via Hong Kong. In processing these transit notifications, the EPD has been communicating with the relevant competent authorities outside Hong Kong to ensure that the spirit of the Basel Convention is strictly followed. A total of 7 shipments have actually been effected in 1997.

7. In addition to the vetting and processing of waste import/export permit applications and transit notifications, the EPD in collaboration with the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, has also been monitoring and scrutinising actual waste shipments, including shipments declared to be 'non-hazardous waste for recycling' . During the first 10 months in 1997, the EPD has inspected nearly 200 shipments of suspected illegal waste at both import/export control points and waste handling/disposal sites. Responsible parties for waste shipments which have contravened Hong Kong's legislation were prosecuted by the EPD. In 1997, there have been 33 successful convictions for waste import/export offences, including 15 convictions on illegal export of hazardous/contaminated waste, 13 convictions on illegal import of non-hazardous waste for a purpose other than reuse/recycling and 5 convictions on illegal import of hazardous/contaminated waste. All illegally imported waste, where appropriate, had been ordered to be returned to the place of origin.

Way Forward

8. Government will continue to ensure that all illegally imported waste are returned to the place of origin and that the wastes are not allowed to be disposed of in Hong Kong. We will also monitor the situation and the effectiveness of the control scheme, and consider additional measures as and when necessary.

Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
January 1998