PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 12:00am

Reduce waste, but also prepare for incinerator

I refer to R. E. J. Bunker's letter ('Island incinerator will not use Japan's clean-burn technology', March 3).

Mr Bunker suggested that in future we would just 'tow everything as far away as possible, and burn the lot'. This is not the case.

The government has been working closely with the community to promote waste separation. This involves installing waste separation facilities at residential, commercial and industrial buildings and engaging non-government organisations in promoting behavioural change.

About 80 per cent of our population is served by waste separation bins. Our recycling rate increased from 43 per cent in 2005 to 49 per cent in 2009. Tokyo's recycling rate is about 23 per cent.

Our new target is to raise our rate to 55 per cent by 2015, through stepping up on-site food waste recycling at community level, more vigorous programmes to promote waste recovery, and legislating on electrical and electronic waste and Phase II of the plastic bag levy under the Product Responsibility Scheme.

We will also consult the public on the introduction of charging for municipal solid waste.

Mr Bunker is wrong to suggest we are going back to the same old incinerators that were shut in 1997.

Modern incinerators are completely different. The integrated waste management facility will adopt modern moving-grate incineration as the core technology. This is a mainstream incineration technology adopted widely overseas and has the highest capability to treat different sizes and qualities of mixed municipal solid waste.

Unlike old incinerators, advanced incineration uses '3Ts' technology. Waste undergoes treatment in a high-temperature environment of at least 850 degrees Celsius, with adequate time for flue gas combustion and in highly turbulent conditions. This destroys organic pollutants like dioxins.

Air emissions from the integrated facility will comply with the most stringent international standards. It will have state-of-the-art air emission cleansing facilities.

Shek Kwu Chau's proximity to the existing refuse transfer stations in Hong Kong and Kowloon means that the distance over which waste must be transported to the integrated facility should be shorter.

Another consideration is the absence of major emission sources within 10 kilometres of Shek Kwu Chau. Activity during the construction and operation stages could also generate economic synergy with neighbouring islands like Cheung Chau. Building the facility at Shek Kwu Chau would also achieve a more balanced distribution of waste facilities for Hong Kong.

The proposed site is 3.5 to five kilometres from Cheung Chau, about the distance between North Point and Central or between Wan Chai and Ap Lei Chau. Cheung Chau is not located in the prevailing downwind direction and is shielded from the facility by the 150-metre-high interior of Shek Kwu Chau.

Hong Kong faces imminent pressure to tackle the waste problem, as our three strategic landfills will be full in 2014, 2016 and 2018, respectively.

While vigorously promoting waste reduction, we must simultaneously work on waste treatment solutions. We cannot afford to delay the preparatory work for building this facility.

Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director (nature conservation and infrastructure planning), Environmental Protection Department

Recycle rather than burn

The reclamation needed to build the incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau will damage the marine environment.

Biodiversity will be adversely affected, and the water will be polluted.

I also believe there will be air pollution problems from burning waste, and this will also have a harmful impact on the environment and on nearby residents.

The government expects the facility to treat about 3,000 tonnes of waste a day, and this will all have to be transported by ship, which will use up diesel oil and again exacerbate water pollution problems.

The incinerator will have a negative impact on tourism, given that some of our visitors come here for Hong Kong's natural environment.

It would be better for the government to consider stepping up eco-friendly projects such as recycling waste.

Elaine Wong, Kwun Tong

Keep old buses in good repair

Four areas in Hong Kong with the worst air pollution are in districts where the residents are on low incomes ('Air pollution worst in city's poor areas', March 8).

Some experts have said the high pollution levels in those four areas are in part due to the number of old diesel vehicles on their roads.

Sham Shui Po has the most serious problems.

Having to inhale respirable suspended particles and nitrogen dioxides is not good for residents. As a consequence, some of them will develop respiratory diseases. This is especially bad for people who suffer from asthma.

The government must take action to ensure these vehicles, especially older buses, are properly maintained in order to reduce emissions.

It should be willing to offer subsidies if that would help.

Karen Ng, Kwun Tong

Don't give me a free plastic bag

What happened to the legislation in Hong Kong to reduce our use of plastic bags by imposing a levy of 50 HK cents?

On a recent trip to Seibu's Great supermarket in Pacific Place, I was given a free bag without even asking.

I have had similar experiences at City'super in IFC Mall and other supermarkets where smaller bags are given to add that special service to the customer's shopping experience.

The retailers should be ashamed of only paying lip service to this law.

Stanley Wong, Pok Fu Lam

Thank you for your kindness

On behalf of the people of Japan, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the kind and generous manner in which the people of Hong Kong have responded to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11.

From the first moments of the disaster, we have not ceased to receive letters of condolence, expressions of sympathy and substantive offers of assistance from all sections of the community. It has been an enormous help to me and my staff to have received such kind messages of support at this difficult time.

Many individuals have contacted us seeking to make donations. We have received offers of support from the business community and from associations that are now helping to raise money for people affected by the disaster. And fund-raising events seem to be taking place around the city.

But beyond that, the people of Hong Kong have shown a generosity of spirit that does justice to their reputation.

I have lost count of the amount of letters I have received from people expressing their faith in the strength and resilience of the Japanese people in adversity. That, more than anything, has made the sadness of the past week more bearable.

Yuji Kumamaru, consul general of Japan in Hong Kong

Campaign hype doesn't help

I refer to Kerry Hasell's letter ('Red herrings introduced into fin debate', March 4) in reply to my letter ('Bad faith rife in shark fin campaigns', February 26).

Your correspondent's comments on shark fin smack of campaign commitment - sometimes wrong but never in doubt - and are inherently illogical.

Firstly, the claim that Chinese people in the seafood industry have no interest in improving the sustainability of shark fishing is unsubstantiated. They arguably have a greater vested interest than most other people.

Secondly, if the shark fin campaign in Hong Kong is truly aimed at ensuring the numbers of sharks killed are sustainable, a campaign against an imported by-product is hardly a significant contribution to managing the industry that produced the by-product in distant lands.

Thirdly, decisions on which parts of Chinese culture to abandon and which to retain should be made by Chinese people after careful consideration of the facts. They are not decisions that should be made lightly based on short-term responses to campaign hype.

Charlie Lim, chairman, conservation and management committee, Marine Products Association (Hong Kong)

No U-turn on Lamma, please

In 2006, our government finalised the development plan for the Southwest New Territories.

While north Lamma would see a population increase of 10,000, south Lamma was to be a nature protection and conservation area with no other development.

Government studies confirmed the suitability of the area for a country park, and the waters south of it for a marine park. South Lamma's role as a source of enjoyment for all Hongkongers and future generations was assured.

Now, a big mainland developer wants to plonk down massive luxury residences and marinas in the protected areas of south Lamma ('Bid for luxury project on Lamma revived', March 14). These will be for the enjoyment of yacht owners (from where?) and who else?

So there would be concrete but no conservation, and yacht parking but no marine park.

Surely our government could not be contemplating this U-turn - could it?

Martin Bode, Wan Chai