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Old computers bring new hope

January 25, 2015

Recycling cause

Recycling cause:  Caritas Hong Kong's Thomas Yip helps refurbish computers that still work and re-sells them to the needy.

Collection point

Collection point:  Caritas has set up a recycling centre in Kowloon Bay where used computers, laptops and monitors can be dropped off.

Second chance

Second chance:  About 10% of the old computers can be repaired successfully.

Waste not

Waste not:  Computers that are beyond repair are dismantled and their parts sold to recyclers.

Learning aid

Learning aid:  The refurbished computers help disadvantaged children study online at home.

Beneficial sale

Beneficial sale:  Mrs Law says she managed to buy a second-hand notebook for her son through the recycling scheme.

Hong Kong households and businesses throw away more than 70,000 tonnes of computers and electronic equipment every year.


To reduce the amount of electronic waste dumped at the city's landfills, the Environmental Protection Department launched the Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment Recycling Programme, or WEEE, to encourage schools and the community to donate used electrical and electronic equipment to non-governmental organisations.


Caritas Hong Kong is one of the organisations that accept donations of computers and other electricals either for recycling or refurbishing, and resells them to the disadvantaged.


New lease on life

Old, slow computers are often discarded by owners looking for the latest in high-tech gadgetry. Caritas Hong Kong has set up a recycling centre in Kowloon Bay, where people can drop off used computers, monitors and laptops.


The centre collects an average of 50,000 computers and 8,000 notebooks a year, with about 10% of them successfully repaired and made available for recycling.


Thomas Yip is in charge of Caritas Hong Kong's computer workshop. He explained that second-hand computers, if deemed reusable, are fixed and sold on to low-income families at a discounted price. The refurbished computers help disadvantaged children study online at home. Those that are beyond repair are dismantled and their usable parts sold to Government-approved recyclers.


Mrs Law is employed, but her income is not stable. The computer her children had been using for years eventually broke down. Through the recycling programme she managed to buy them a second-hand notebook for $699.


"My son, who is in Primary Five, can now use the computer for his homework," she said.


Community participation

Last year, the Environmental Protection Department took its electronic waste recycling programme to schools to encourage students and teachers to properly dispose of used electrical equipment. Both the number of participating schools and the amount of electronic waste that was collected increased significantly, with 172 schools taking part and more than 7,700 pieces of equipment recovered. The number of recycled units jumped 40% compared to 2013.


In the run-up to the Lunar New Year, families carry out the traditional household clean-up. To capitalise on that, the Environmental Protection Department has organised a festive WEEE recycling collection service for January 26 to February 13.


About 600 housing estates and residential buildings have signed up for the service. Rechargeable batteries and compact fluorescent lamps will also be collected and passed on to charities for proper treatment.


The Government plans to open recycling centres in different districts. The one in Sha Tin will be ready soon and can accept not only electronics, but also glass and other products.


The Environment Bureau also plans to submit a waste electrical and electronic products-related bill to the Legislative Council, to further promote recycling.

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