• Wed
  • Sep 24, 2014
  • Updated: 10:13am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 1:56am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 1:56am

Government needs to rethink its waste management policy

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

We see that the forces in favour of building a large incinerator near Shek Kwu Chau are coming together for another push at getting the project approved by the Legislative Council. A South China Morning Post story recently reported that a group of academics and professionals were calling on the government to scale back landfill and get on with building the incinerator.

"We need to act now, or this will end with rubbish piling up on the streets," said Professor Poon Chi-sun, of Polytechnic University's civil and environmental engineering department and spokesman for the new Alliance for Promoting Sustainable Waste Management for Hong Kong. Poon says the government is right to adopt moving-grate technology - in which waste goes through a combustion chamber - in its incinerator plan, adding that the technology is used in 2,000 plants around the world.

What he doesn't say, however, is that the number of operating incinerators and the installation of new ones is declining. In the United States, the number of moving-grate incinerators dropped from 186 in 1990 to 87 in 2010. In Japan, it fell 25 per cent between 1998 and 2005. In Europe, there is an overcapacity of incinerators because of successful recycling efforts. Not so long ago, New York City issued a tender for a waste management facility specifying that it did not want offers using traditional moving-grate technology.

Professor Irene Lo Man-chi, of the University of Science and Technology's department of civil and environmental engineering, said the technology had been proved to be a reliable option that was safe in terms of emissions. This is a moot point, and there are peer-reviewed reports showing abnormally high death rates and incidence of cancer among people living near incinerators. We accept that modern incinerators produce less emissions but that is not to say they are safe.

One technology that is known to produce far less emissions than incineration is plasma gasification. However this is dismissed as the wrong choice by Lo, who says it wouldn't be able to cope with Hong Kong's volume of waste. And by way of support, she says that problems with plasma technology had led to the closure of a 10-year-old plant in Japan. She omits to say that the plant was closed because it ran out of feedstock. She also appears oblivious to the number of plasma gasification projects that are springing up all over the world.

Ever since the incinerator project was introduced, the Environment Bureau has refused to budge from its insistence that it must be built, even with the change of leadership at the bureau. It also continues with the politically expedient reasons for locating the incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau rather than at Tsang Tsui near Tuen Mun. But it is clear to many people that if any progress is to be made on this, then some aspects of the plan have to be rethought. About 42 per cent of Hong Kong's waste that goes to landfills is food waste and is between 70 and 90 per cent water.

Clear the Air chairman James Middleton has spoken to three engineers who say it is perfectly feasible for food waste to be shredded at source using garburators and disposed of down the drain and handled by the Stonecutters water treatment plant, which is currently operating at 50 per cent capacity. This idea has been incorporated into the thinking of the New Territories Concern Group, which, after visiting various waste treatment plants, including plasma gasification projects in Europe, produced a report supporting the use of plasma technology. The group is politically significant and includes Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, who, in addition to being a former president of the Hong Kong Law Society, also has the distinction of having deposed Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat as chairman of the Tuen Mun Rural Committee.

In addition to its support for disposing of food waste at source, the report suggests gasification as a more mature and appropriate technology to meet Hong Kong's present and future waste management needs. It recommends the establishment of one or more pilot plants to determine the suitability of gasification technology for Hong Kong. This approach would give Hong Kong considerable breathing space for it to take another look at the options available rather than its current approach, which is making little progress.

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caractacus
There is the usual smell of vested interests here. As with all major public projects nowadays, one has to look at who stands to gain financially from this incredibly stupid incinerator idea. Gas plasma can deal with HK's waste if Govt. adopts a sensible and sustainable waste recycling programme. Most of our waste could go through Stonecutters Island water treatment plant, which is only running at 50% capacity.
KwunTongBypass
Blah blah blah - Harp harp harp NOTHING NEW
In the meantime we keep on lanfillling and landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfilling and landfilling and landfilling STINK STNK STINK STINKand landfil
jtc

This buffoon KwunTongBypass has limited vocabulary. He/she needs a proper education.
dynamco
the person leading the incinerator push City Poly's Poon has a project funded by EPD = Laputa = supposed Eco bricks , made from untreated flyash & crushed glass - interesting to see the leachate tests
The more flyash produced, the more bricks he can make
The list of academics reads like a committee list of the HKIE
ev.hkie.org.hk/Home.aspx?SubMenuID=904747aa-9ce1-4a2f-9baf-80e863afc367
This is a shameful attempt to try + hoodwink HK people by wheeling out these blinkered chummy persons + denigrates any future research performed by the shamsters
Not once is there any mention by any one of them of the deaths + cancer peer reviewed studies in proximity to incinerators.
The fxxls were quoted stating "they want to send a clear message to the public: landfills are not sustainable and should be kept to a minimum, while incineration is the most sensible - & urgently needed option.The group stressed it did not have any vested interests, saying the plan was in the city's long-term interests"
Incinerators leave 30% by weight of what they burn as toxic ash that needs to be LANDFILLED
The flyash then needs to be encapsulated with cement
Man made islands in the sea will be required as the new ash lagoons costing us billions
Whereas plasma plants leave no ash, just a reusable fused inert slag for sale as road aggregate & emit steam & cost ZERO - the plasma companies fund the plant , Govt just needs to supply the land near a landfill so they can also reverse mine the landfills
rpasea
Good article....smaller pilot plants at existing landfill sites can be built quickly. Technology will be changing and there is no point putting all our eggs in an old basket.
.
One aspect that needs research is why are so many govt sycophants pushing the mega project that is outdated before the first shovel hits the ground? Have contracts for this plant secretly been awarded?
jtc
The EPD awarded the contract to manage the incinerator project to Aecom, the engineering consultancy that has benefited most from the moving-grate incinerator project, on Nov 24, 2012. This was BEFORE the EPD presented the project to LegCo for approval on April 20, 2013. And Aecom will benefit more if the project is approved. They already got the contract to do the reclamation and sea dredging in Shek Kwu Chau.
This is blatant vested interest in action. Spread the word. Hong Kong citizens should know about this,
Most of the members of this Alliance are from the engineering and construction industry who stand to gain the most from this government project. The leading academic there had research fund granted by the environmental protection department.
John Adams
Good article ! Keep at this one, Mr Winn
As usual the government is like an ostrich with its head in the sand - stubborn and very, very stupid
caractacus
wrong, not only stupid but also very corrupt.
 
 
 
 
 

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