13 Sept 2005
Environmental Standards(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 04,2005)
Horst Dettenthaler, executive manager hardware of Karstadt Quelle (Far East) & Co, believes the willingness of Hong Kong producers to embrace "green manufacturing" will give them a competitive edge.
"As far as Hong Kong manufacturers are concerned, they are already talking about 'green' manufacturing," he says, noting that they are "very willing" to support the new rules across all stages of production; from R&D, parts supply, set-up and quality control to final assembly. "This could well give Hong Kong a competitive advantage over other areas in the future."
Hong Kong has responded to the EU's call for manufacturers to adopt environmentally friendly production processes by setting up the Hong Kong Green Manufacturing Alliance (HKGMA).
The move comes ahead of the enforcement of the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and RoHS (Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directives effective from August 2005 and July 2006 respectively.
Alliance chairman Dr K.B. Chan says that as Hong Kong is next to the "factory of the world" on the southern Chinese mainland, it is "our duty to promote Hong Kong companies as responsible corporate citizens".
Given the urgency of the EU directives, the HKGMA was set up under the umbrella of the Hong Kong Federation of Industries, which is the de facto representative of Hong Kong industries.
It includes members from seven of the most affected industries - electrical, electronics, toys and games, watches and clocks, medical equipment, critical components and metal stamping.
Outside Japan, Hong Kong is a leader in Asia with the formation of such an alliance. "The Hong Kong Green Manufacturing Alliance hopes to create green awareness and help transform manufacturing in Hong Kong into environmentally friendly processes to maintain a competitive edge," says Chan.
The transition will be a complicated and difficult process: under the WEEE directive, the producer or importer has to bear responsibility for collecting and dismantling the product.
Chan explains that a lot of work has to be borne by the manufacturer. "It sounds simple, but a product has to be made just as fast to dissemble as it is to assemble," he notes, adding that designers and engineers may have to look at extending the life span of a product. "Instead of lasting seven years, it has to be extended to say 14 years."
Then, on the technical side, a product must not contain hazardous or toxic components. "A finished product can be made up of 1,000 components and involve over 100 manufacturers," Chan observes.
"It's a titanic effort to ensure that all the suppliers will comply with the safety regulations."
It's not enough just talking about EU directives, according to Chan. "On the surface it is an EU directive, but Hong Kong manufacturers export their products worldwide," he notes.
"We can't say the goods that are shipped to the EU will be green while those destined for South America won't - we're talking about worldwide compliance."
He believes there's a big "green market" out there and it's global. "Hong Kong companies must be more green-aware and know what to do in order to maintain competitiveness," says Chan.
Hong Kong Environmental Alliance Launched
Hong Kong's leading industrial associations are working to grow sustainable industries with the recent formation of the Hong Kong Green Manufacturing Alliance (HKGMA) to coordinate green manufacturing initiatives and efforts.
Led by chairman Dr K.B. Chan, the HKGMA comprises seven founding members including:
The HKGMA says that supporting industries in their efforts to meet the European Union Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) and the directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) will be a high priority.
WEEE and RoHS, which became European law on February 13, 2003, are aimed at tackling the increasing electrical and electronic equipment waste.
The WEEE directive promotes the reuse and recycling of electrical and electronic equipment, making producers responsible for taking back, treating and/or recycling electrical and electronic equipment. RoHS requires substitution of various heavy metals and brominated flame retardants in electrical and electronic equipment.
The HKGMA is taking active steps to ensure that Hong Kong industries are aware of their RoHS and WEEE requirements with the launch of an awareness programme consisting of a series of seminars and training sessions for industry operators.