Lawmakers, greens find five ways to curb waste

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2010, 12:00am

Green groups and several lawmakers have come up with an action plan to reduce by two-thirds the amount of solid waste produced in the city by 2022.

The action plan aims to cut the 9,000 tonnes of solid waste generated each day to 3,000 tonnes by then.

It was devised by 19 groups and individuals - including Green Sense, Green Power, Greeners Action, WWF and lawmakers Tanya Chan and Andrew Cheng Kar-foo.

They suggest five ways to meet the target: fee-based waste disposal; increased recycling of leftover food; raising awareness of and responsibility for waste; boosting research; and building recycling and treatment facilities.

Generating less waste and promoting reuse should be the top priorities, followed by recycling and, as a last resort, methods such as incineration and landfills, Michelle Au Wing-tsz of Friends of the Earth said.

The government thinks otherwise. Environment secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah says two incinerators will be built, at Shek Kwu Chau, off Lantau, and in Tuen Mun.

Those behind the action plan said they would try to stop the incinerators being built. 'Not only do we reject this plan of introducing incinerators, we will mobilise the public in a campaign against it,' Au said.

Green groups involved in the action plan said the issue of waste management had been ignored for years.

Albert Lai Kwong-tak, chairman of middle-class lobby group the Professional Commons, said the city should learn from London's experience. 'The former mayor of London told me they had made a mistake in building two incinerators hastily, and the city had lost the impetus to reduce waste,' Lai said.

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, who was involved in the action plan, said getting people to buy only what they needed was critical to changing the habits of those in the world's most wasteful city. She said business would likely be in favour of the incinerators. 'Asking everybody to reduce waste is tantamount to asking them to buy less,' she said.

A Baptist University survey released last week concluded the city should build five more incinerators, not two. The report said while many Hongkongers still considered incineration unclean, technological improvements had made it a clean and effective way to dispose of waste.

And incinerators can also generate electricity. The report cited Macau, where an incinerator generates enough power for 33,000 families.

In Germany, 75 incinerators handle 18 million tonnes of rubbish a year and provide 60,000 jobs. In Japan, three-quarters of solid waste is burned and only 1.7 per cent goes to landfills, the report said.

Last year, the city generated 6.45 million tonnes of municipal solid waste - more than double the amount two decades ago and equal to 921 kilograms for each of its seven million people. The figure excludes construction and hazardous waste.