Officials being prudent with moderate start

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 12:00am

I refer to Stephanie Fung's letter headlined, 'Composting would bring all sorts of benefits' (South China Morning Post, April 7).

It is the Government's policy to ensure that all waste generated in Hong Kong receives the most appropriate treatment and organic waste is no exception.

The organic portion in domestic waste is mainly food waste. Given the constraints we have in Hong Kong, food waste is always mixed with other waste (for example, glass, plastic, etc) when people dispose of it.

To make good-quality compost from food waste, we need to separate the food waste at source to avoid contamination. Because of this and the associated odour and hygiene concerns, an effective and environmentally-acceptable collection system is a prerequisite for composting of food waste.

Composting is not new in Hong Kong. The Chai Wan Composting Plant in the 1980s composted general household waste, but it was later closed down because of poor product quality.

In applying composting to other types of waste, we are quite successful in using livestock waste as the feedstock for making compost at the Sha Ling Composting Plant. The plant is processing about 20 tonnes of livestock waste a day, but there is a limited market in Hong Kong for the compost produced.

However, composting food waste can be used as one of the tools for treating municipal solid waste and in fact, we are actively identifying suitable sites to set up such a composting operation. However, we are mindful of the market demand and the competitiveness of the products and consider it best to make a moderate start. Private sector expertise and market opportunity will be drawn on to make the operation technically and commercially viable. It is most likely that such an operation will start with food waste from uncontaminated sources such as food processing factories and once proved successful, can be extended to food waste from other sources.

We agree that everyone can, and should, contribute to waste reduction. The initiative of starting community composting projects proposed by Miss Fung is supported in principle. However, there are practical constraints in this being generally practised throughout Hong Kong.

ELLEN Y. L. CHAN Principal Environmental Protection Officer for Director of Environmental Protection