HKBU student Winifred Lau (Biology, PhD) was presented with the "OSH Best Project Award for the Academic Year 2011" by the Hong Kong Occupational Safety and Health Council. She won for her thesis entitled "Risk Assessment and Occupational Health and Safety on E-Waste Processing, Handling and Treatment in Hong Kong".
Only limited information is currently available on Hong Kong's e-waste recycling network, especially in areas of waste generation, trading practices and occupational safety and health risks to workers. Winifred said: "I was interested in studying these issues so I decided to investigate the areas of health risks constituted by e-waste in Hong Kong, in particular the risks faced by e-waste recycling workers, and identifying possible mitigating measures, if any."
Winifred's study was the first in Hong Kong on this aspect. Her study focused on the five major types of e-waste, namely televisions, washing machines, air conditioners, refrigerators and personal computers (TWARC), which have been prioritised by the Government for proper treatment under a forthcoming producer responsibility scheme. The study found that about 93,000 tonnes of TWARC waste is produced by Hong Kong households each year, and that approximately 80 per cent is exported for further recycling or disposal. In addition, many workers in the e-waste recycling industry are unaware of the potential health and safety risks associated with their work.
Winifred made a couple of recommendations based on her findings. "Future research should focus on evaluation of risks and hazards posed to workers in the industry, since this industry is expected to rapidly expand to cater for the forthcoming producer responsibility scheme. Relevant authorities should emphasise worker training and enhance safety awareness among stakeholders. In future, a Code of Practice enforced by the relevant authorities detailing requirements for e-waste treatment should be established to ensure that e-waste recycling workers are provided with a safe and healthy work environment."