Hong Kong residents love their gadgets, and electronics stores are a loud and boisterous part of the city’s retail landscape, the UN report said.
However, while the city’s love of technology makes it one of the world’s most connected and convenient places to live, it comes with a cost.
Hong Kong now produces the most electronic waste per capita in the world, according to a report published by the United Nations University (UNU), the academic and research arm of the UN.
In 2015 Hong Kong generated an estimated 21.7 kg of e-waste per person.
Singapore and Taiwan followed with 19.95 kilograms per person and 19.53 kg per person, while Europe produced 15.6 kg of e-waste per person.
City residents don’t have just one mobile phone.
There are 2.4 active mobile phones per person in Hong Kong, according to the city’s census and statistics department.
At the Wanchai Computer Centre, three brightly lit floors are filled with stores overflowing with electronic gadgets new and old.
“If a new product comes, Hong Kong is most likely to buy new things,” Gabriel Liu, 31, a technician at a computer sales and repair shop at the centre said.
The stream of waste has grown due to the increasing number of gadgets and the decreasing average lifespan of electronic goods, as technology progresses at a rapid rate.
Computers once had a four- to six-year lifespan, and now it is likelier to be two to three.
Liu said he was not surprised about the level of waste being produced by the city and supported government efforts to reduce it.
“Hong Kong is planning to adopt a scheme whereby electronics manufacturers and sellers will be required to recycle e-waste.
“They will also be asked to pay a recycling levy for electronics sold in the city, a government spokesperson said.
According to a legal framework adopted by the city’s legislature in March 2016, sellers will be required to provide an e-waste removal service for consumers free of charge.
“This will enable the old equipment to be delivered to a competent recyclerBut Liu was sceptical about whether a recycling program centered on sellers would be effective.
“People get too lazy to bring it here,” Liu said.
Other people at the computer centre told dpa they had no knowledge of the government’s plan to charge a levy and make recycling mandatory.
“Honestly, I just throw (electronics) away with the trash (once they can’t be repaired),” Michael Kwong, a salesman at a store specialising in camera equipment said.
He said that he thought businesses were likely to push the costs on to consumers.
“Around 80 per cent of Hong Kong’s counted e-waste is recovered by second-hand dealers and is usually exported for reuse or recovery of valuable materials.
“The waste left in Hong Kong comprises only a small percentage of total municipal solid waste disposals,’’ Environmental Protection Department said.
However, as international standards on e-waste disposal tighten, exporting waste will no longer be an easy solution.
Hong Kong is now building its own e-waste recycling facility at the Tuen Mun Ecopark to cope.
When disposed of irresponsibly, e-waste is an environmental and human health hazard, allowing toxic materials to leach into the local soil and water.
This can lead to a range of health problems including cancer and developmental defects.
The facility built by German waste recycling technology company Alba is set to be operational this year and will be able to process 30,000 tons of e-waste annually.