Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2012, 12:00am

A chance to get rid of waste with virtually no emissions

We hear of interesting developments on the incinerator front. Readers will recall that the Environmental Protection Department's plan for a HK$15 billion incinerator on the scenically attractive island of Shek Kwu Chau, off the south coast of Lantau, is currently on hold pending consideration by C.Y. Leung's incoming administration. Senior executives from the Solena Group have been in town this week visiting the department. The group specialises in plasma arc technology and using it to convert municipal solid waste into jet fuel. The company has in recent years signed a number of agreements with airlines and municipal authorities for converting municipal solid waste to biofuel projects. It has started construction of a facility in London in partnership with British Airways and has signed agreements and letters of intent with SAS, Alitalia, and will be discussing a similar project with an Australian airline.

This led to speculation that Solena has been speaking to Cathay Pacific this week with a view to setting up a waste-to-biofuels plant in Hong Kong. The EPD believes the technology is immature and has not been tried on the volumes of municipal solid waste (MSW) Hong Kong is looking to incinerate - 3,000 tonnes a day. The closest volume, to our knowledge, is a plant in the US which handles 2,400 tonnes a day of scrap metal, though this admittedly raises fewer technical problems than MSW. Solena says it can deal with 3,000 tonnes a day as its units are modular. The adoption of this technology would be cheaper and over time it is envisaged it could munch its way through Hong Kong's current landfills. The advantage of this technology from an environmental perspective is that it produces virtually no emissions. This compares with the traditional incineration process the EPD wants to use, which is known to emit toxins and to produce high volumes of ash, much of which is highly toxic and will need to be carefully handled and disposed of in landfills. So we await with interest to learn if Solena has made any impact on the EPD or whether the department will persist with its pursuit of old and environmentally messy technology.

So much for saving the environment

Not everyone it seems was impressed by HSBC's informal shareholder meeting on Monday. One writes to say that shareholders were to receive some sort of gift. This turned out to be a small Vitasoy drink carton and a box of La Vie Bakery biscuits. The biscuits were small ones, 24 in number and each wrapped individually in a thick cellophane wrapper, while the box was an extra-heavy cardboard one. 'So much for helping to save the environment with all the packing,' our reader observed. Our reader was further mystified to find a piece of paper in the box pointing out that HSBC is a 'responsible corporate citizen' and praising 'the HKCSS-HSBC Social Enterprise Business Centre, a showcase of a tripartite partnership represented by the government, NGOs and the private sector, offering a diverse range of services and support to social enterprises, and promoting enterprise development in Hong Kong'. This venture had the distinction of being launched in 2008 by Henry Tang Ying-yen in what for him were happier days.

Take a bow bankers and lawyers

A big thumbs up for the 40 or so bankers and lawyers who recently raised HK$350,000 at a charity quiz for International Care Ministries (ICM). The funds will be used for educational scholarships for over 5,000 poor children in the Philippines. The quiz was held in Grappa's Cellar and featured questions on finance, law, entertainment and Philippine trivia. The prize for the top individual fund-raiser went to Kalpana Desai of Macquarie Bank who raised more than HK$58,000. ICM's scholarship programme pays for the education of poor elementary pupils who would not otherwise be able to attend public school. ICM believes it is one of the keys to eradicating poverty and that every child needs and deserves the chance to go to school.

Fakes plague the military

A US Senate investigation came up with the astonishing conclusion that fake electronic parts are widespread in US military systems, and most of them come from China, Reuters reports. The probe found counterfeit electronic parts from the mainland in the air force's C-130J cargo plane, in assemblies for Special Operations Forces helicopters and in the navy's Poseidon surveillance plane. It found 1,800 incidents of bogus parts in the Department of Defence supply chain in 2009 and 2010 and involved more than one million fake parts. The price tag for replacing a bogus memory device in a Missile Defence Agency missile, for example, was US$2.7 million.