Summary of Environmental Legislation

Air Pollution Control Ordinance (Cap.311)

This ordinance empowers the EPD to control air pollution from industry, commercial operations and construction work. [Motor vehicle emissions are controlled under the Road Traffic Ordinance and the EPD also helps to control these]. The APCO prohibits the use of high sulphur and leaded fuels and the open burning of construction waste, tyres and cables for metal salvage.

Abatement notices are usually issued to anyone causing air pollution from a process or machinery and they will be asked to reduce or stop their emissions, or face prosecution. Some events are prosecuted on the spot, such as construction dust or black smoke emissions. Potential polluters whose fuel consumption exceeds a certain limit must submit plans for installing or altering furnaces, ovens and chimneys. Major industrial processes, or "specified processes", are subject to tighter control. The methods and standards for assessing air pollution can be found in the Technical Memorandum for Issuing Air Pollution Abatement Notices.

Asbestos control provisions in the ordinance require that building works involving asbestos must be conducted only by registered qualified personnel and under the supervision of a registered consultant.

Air Pollution Control (Volatile Organic Compounds) Regulation:
The Regulation prohibits import into Hong Kong and manufacture in Hong Kong regulated products with volatile organic compounds content exceeding the prescribed limits for local sale or use. The regulated products include architectural paints, vehicle refinishing paints, vessel paints, pleasure craft paints, adhesives, sealants, printing inks and six categories of consumer products (namely air fresheners, hairsprays, multi-purpose lubricants, floor wax strippers, insecticides, and insect repellents).

Air Pollution Control (Non-road Mobile Machinery) (Emission) Regulation:
This regulation covers non-road mobile machinery (NRMMs) include a wide range of mobile machines (including transportable industrial equipment), or vehicles powered by internal combustion engines used primarily off-road. All regulated machines sold or leased for use in Hong Kong, except those exempted, are required to comply with the prescribed emission standards. Starting from 1 December 2015, only approved or exempted NRMMs with a proper label are allowed to be used in specified activities and locations including construction sites, container terminals and back up facilities, restricted areas of the airport, designated waste disposal facilities and specified processes.

Air Pollution Control (Ocean Going Vessels) (Fuel at Berth) Regulation:
This regulation bans ocean going vessels from using fuel with sulphur content exceeding 0.5% during berthing in Hong Kong.

Waste Disposal Ordinance (Cap.354)

It is prohibited to dump waste in public places or on Government land, or on private premises without the consent of the owner or occupier. Apart from this general provision, there are four major provisions under the Waste Disposal Ordinance:

Waste Disposal (Chemical Waste) (General) Regulation:
Anyone who produces chemical waste or causes it to be produced has to register as a chemical waste producer. The waste must be packaged, labelled and stored properly before disposal. Only a licensed collector can transport the waste to a licensed chemical waste disposal site for disposal. Chemical waste producers also need to keep records of their chemical waste disposal for inspection by EPD staff.

Waste Disposal (Livestock Waste) Regulations:
Livestock farmers must dispose of livestock waste without causing pollution or nuisance to the environment. Liquid waste has to be disposed of either to a soakaway-pit or treated to meet effluent standards of 50 mg/L of biochemical oxygen demand and 50 mg/L of suspended solids.

Import and Export of Waste Control:
A permit system to control the import and export of hazardous and other waste in line with the requirements of the Basel Convention, is set out in this ordinance.

Waste Disposal (Clinical Waste) (General) Regulation:
Clinical waste producers must properly manage their clinical waste by consigning the clinical waste to licensed clinical waste collectors for delivery to a licensed disposal facility for disposal. The waste must be packaged, labeled and stored properly before disposal. Only a licensed collector can transport the waste to a licensed clinical waste disposal site for disposal. Clinical waste producer also need to keep records of their clinical waste consignment and delivery records for inspection by EPD staff.

Water Pollution Control Ordinance (Cap.358) All discharges, other than domestic sewage to a foul sewer or unpolluted water to a storm drain, must be covered by an effluent discharge licence. The licence specifies the permitted physical, chemical and microbial quality of the effluent and the general guidelines are that the effluent does not damage sewers or pollute inland or inshore marine waters. Details of the effluent standards can be found in the Technical Memorandum on Effluent Discharges.

Legal controls also apply to sewerage connections. The Government is extending public sewers to some major rural areas in an effort to improve the environment there. In areas where these new sewers become available, a notice would be issued asking owners to connect their sewage to the public sewer. If necessary, a further notice may be issued asking the owner to demolish or fill in any redundant sewage treatment facilities or septic tanks and soakaway-pits.
Noise Control Ordinance (Cap.400) Neighbourhood noise and noise from construction, industrial and commercial activities are controlled by the Noise Control Ordinance. Neighbourhood noise in the context of providing quick relief to the public is generally controlled by the police.

Construction Noise:
Noisy construction work and the use of powered mechanical equipment in populated areas is not allowed between 7pm and 7am or at any time on general holidays, unless prior approval has been granted by the EPD through the Construction Noise Permit System. Certain equipment is also subject to restrictions when its use is allowed. Hand-held percussive breakers and air compressors must comply with noise emissions standards and be issued with a noise emission label from the EPD. Percussive pile-driving is allowed on weekdays only with prior approval, in the form of a Construction Noise Permit from the EPD.

Industrial and Commercial Noise:
Industrial and commercial noise must comply with statutory limits specified in the Technical Memorandum. Operators who fail to do so will be issued with a Noise Abatement Notice asking them to reduce their noise or face prosecution for failing to comply with the conditions in the Notice.
Ozone Layer Protection Ordinance (Cap.403) This ordinance controls the production, import and export of products containing ozone-depleting substances, and the recycling of ozone-depleting substances, thereby giving effect to Hong Kong's international obligations under the 1985 Vienna Convention and the 1987 Montreal Protocol.
Dumping at Sea Ordinance (Cap.466) Anyone involved in marine dumping and related loading operations, requires a permit from the EPD. All dumping vessels have to be equipped with an automatic self-monitoring system which records their position and loading and dumping operations.
Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (Cap.499)

The Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance is to avoid, minimise and control the adverse impact on the environment of designated projects through the application of the environmental impact assessment process and the environmental permit system.

Designated projects, unless exempted, must follow the statutory environmental impact assessment (EIA) process and require environmental permits for their construction and operation.

Hazardous Chemicals Control Ordinance (Cap.595) The Ordinance regulates, through an activity-based permit system, the import, export, manufacture and use of non-pesticide hazardous chemicals that have potentially harmful or adverse effects on human health or the environment, including those regulated by the Stockholm Convention and the Rotterdam Convention.
Product Eco-responsibility Ordinance (Cap. 603)

Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS) is a key policy initiative under the holistic waste management system for waste reduction, recovery and recycling. Enshrining the principle of "polluter pays" and the element of "eco-responsibility", PRS requires manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers to share the responsibility of reducing, recovering and recycling certain products so as to minimize their environmental impact. The Ordinance is a framework legislation which provides the shared core elements of all PRSs and the fundamental regulatory requirements in respect of individual types of product, with operational details to be set out in the Ordinance and its subsidiary legislation.

The Plastic Shopping Bag Charging Scheme is the first PRS under the Ordinance, and the law sets out the details of the operation of the PRS. Starting from 1 April 2015, the PRS is fully extended to cover all retail sales of goods. Sellers involving in retail sales of goods shall charge the customer 50 cents or more for each plastic shopping bag provided directly or indirectly to the customer. On 31 December 2022, the Government implemented enhancement measures, including increasing the minimum charging level from 50 cents to $1 and tightening the scope of exemption. Offenders may be subject to a fixed penalty of $2,000.

Motor Vehicle Idling (Fixed Penalty) Ordinance (Cap. 611) The Ordinance prohibits drivers from causing or permitting their vehicle engines to operate for more than 3 minutes in aggregate in any 60-minute period while the vehicles are stationary ("idling prohibition"). Drivers who contravene the idling prohibition may be issued with a penalty notice requiring them to pay a fixed penalty of $320. Traffic Wardens and Environmental Protection Inspectors are empowered to enforce the law.
Mercury Control Ordinance
(Cap. 640)
This ordinance (Cap. 640) regulates the import, export, keeping and use of mercury, mercury mixtures and mercury compounds; controls the import, export, manufacture and supply of certain mercury-added products; and controls certain manufacturing processes in which mercury or mercury compounds are used.

 For further information on Hong Kong's environmental laws, please visit Related Legislation.


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