• Mon
  • Sep 22, 2014
  • Updated: 6:57am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2014, 1:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2014, 1:14am

Incinerators are not the only way to deal with household waste

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.
 

Environment secretary Wong Kam-sing says Hong Kong has to be "realistic" and adopt plans to build an incinerator in order to deal with the city's waste problem. But why, one wonders, should we be bludgeoned into the Environment Bureau's determination of reality when there seem to be other cleaner and cheaper alternatives?

Some months ago the bureau's attention was drawn to the possibility of dealing with food waste at source by using garburators to pulverise it, enabling it to be poured down the drains and into the sewage system. This method is particularly appropriate for Hong Kong as its food waste is between 70-90 per cent water. Clear the Air chairman James Middleton has spoken to three engineers who say this is a feasible way of dealing with food waste since it can be handled by Stonecutters water treatment plant, which is currently operating at 50 per cent capacity. The idea gets a small mention in the bureau's latest policy document, A Food Waste and Yard Waste Plan for Hong Kong 2014-2022, saying: "It would have adverse impact on the sewers and the sewage treatment works. Large scale practical experience especially for multi-storey buildings is lacking and inconclusive internationally. Some cities have banned such practices."

But the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), takes a different view. It's the leading global professional body for people working in environmental business and provides independent information to the public and advice to governments. There is a lengthy discussion on its website (http://bit.ly/1hNA46w) which concludes that "CIWEM considers the evidence demonstrates that FWDs [food waste disposers] are valid tools for separating kitchen food at source and diverting it to treatment, use and recycling via the existing infrastructure and that they offer the opportunity for cost savings compared with other routes".

Food waste accounts for some 42 per cent of the waste that is sent to those troublesome landfills. Even if it took a year to initiate this scheme, it would take the pressure off the need to expand the landfills. It would make it easier to handle the remaining waste, and weakens the case for a mass burn incinerator - not that it was ever that compelling. So there is no need to cave in to Wong's scaremongering with his talk of rubbish piling up in the streets in the next few years.

 

RMJM wound up

It will come as no great surprise to learn that a winding-up order has been made against architectural firm RMJM, once one of the world's leading practices. Over the past two years it has flagrantly ignored Labour Tribunal orders to pay employees HK$3 million in unpaid wages, and has many creditors who are also unpaid.

RMJM has adopted a tactic in recent years of ignoring demands to pay employees, preferring to pay the relatively paltry fines handed by the courts. It has paid a total of HK$121,200 in recent years in fines, considerably less than it owes employees. It is believed that RMJM Hong Kong is being allowed to go bust together with debts to employees and suppliers while another company it registered in November is believed to be the conduit for payments for work completed which is being funnelled back to head office.

Meanwhile, RMJM is talking about "international expansion". In a statement carried by the website BDOnline, RMJM said that "the new offices in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, Karachi, La Paz and Pretoria will be making their own announcements in the coming days". This is apparently a reference to a franchise model which RMJM is adopting.

 

Judith Mackay attacks DAB

Long-time anti-tobacco campaigner Judith Mackay has criticised the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) for its opposition to raising cigarette tax to a deterrent level in today's budget. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah had apparently been considering increasing the tax so that the retail price for a packet of cigarettes would be HK$100. In a statement she said that not increasing the tax would lead to thousands of deaths. She said the DAB should reflect on " how many Hong Kong children will die due to the Members' individual opposition to meaningful tax increases".

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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