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  • Apr 20, 2014
  • Updated: 4:32pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Time for Hong Kong to stop talking rubbish

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 May, 2013, 2:56am

Yet another plan to solve Hong Kong's serious refuse problem has been unveiled. Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing conveyed the right level of urgency in launching the government's blueprint last week, calling the matter "grave". The mix of incineration, waste disposal charges and improved recycling he laid out are what is needed to ease the strain on landfills, but they are nothing new. They have been put forward by other administrations. There is a significant difference this time, though. The matter has become so pressing that there is now less room for talk than action.

We face a critical situation with our three landfills reaching capacity by the end of the decade. Wong's solution, which combines better waste management, landfill expansion and reducing the per capita amount being thrown away by 40 per cent by 2022, is a sensible approach. But its success hinges on every company and individual putting their all into the effort. That has so far not happened, with vested interests ensuring the problem has been edged up on rather than decisively resolved.

A patchwork of disposal and recycling schemes have been implemented over the years involving construction waste, electronic components and computers, plastics, paper and food. Beyond the construction industry and a plastic bag levy for supermarkets and large stores, they have been voluntary. Recycling levels have risen to 48 per cent, but that has not stopped Hong Kong from earning a reputation as being Asia's most wasteful city. On average, we each generate 1.36kg of trash daily compared to 1kg in Taipei, 0.95 in Seoul and 0.77 in Tokyo.

Soaring tourist numbers skew the figures, but that is no excuse for inaction. Our city is small in area and the landfill dilemma has been a matter of public discussion for decades. That should have prompted implementation of waste solutions widely used elsewhere, incineration, household recycling and levies foremost among them. The latter has been put on the table by Wong and details of charges will be released soon.

There is already resistance. Lawmakers, their constituents in mind, have rejected an expansion of the Tseung Kwan O landfill. Incineration has in the past been scorned for the same "not in my backyard" reason. Few will want to pay for what is presently free. Given how irresponsible we have been about waste, though, those are not excuses. A viable plan has been put forward and it has to be quickly turned into reality. We have to give it our full support. Our wasteful ways have to end.

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dynamco
ENB has a major problem due to last administration’s diabolical failure to act. Mandatory waste charge law + collection 100% the way forward but current Legco common sense-busters will block it. Voluntary programs do not work. Incineration is old technology+ was already unanimously opposed by the 2012 Environment Panel- it leaves by weight 22% bottom ash + 7% toxic fly ash of burned trash that must be LANDFILLED. Numerous peer reviewed studies show increase in children + adult death, cancers, autism etc downwind of incinerators + dioxins deposited in soil + sea hence poisoned food chain. Mothers pass accumulated dioxins to the foetus + thru breast milk. Far cleaner technology gasplasma (GP) has no ash but HK Govt is too conservative + not a pioneer. Gasplasma for MSW operated on a 220 tpd scale in Japan successfully after initial refractory hiccups for 9 years then ran out of MSW due to success of Japan recycling laws. 950 tpd GP reactor being installed at Teesside UK now + 2nd adjoining 950 tpd plant confirmed. UK Govt + NY City have embraced GP. Europlasma report predicts 651 GP plants in Europe alone by 2030. Incin JR result awaited but loser will appeal/final appeal=end 2014 before any work could start + build 7-8 years at SWC island. By then rest of world will have GP operational already for 7 years! Europe has incin overcapacity due to recycling success + competes for feedstocks - worst case = buy/rent some cargo ships and sell MSW to Oslo who r willing to buy it!
megafun
KS Wong is the WRONG minister to implement a tough policy - untried and unpopular. The mere fact that he is burning waste instead of forcing everyone to re-cycle is evidence he can't hack it - as Protector of the ENVIRONMENT. Resign and get the head of GreenPeace to replace him may be the only sensible option.
johnyuan
I agree – “Our wasteful ways have to end.” I had seen shops in Queens Road within a year underwent three fitting changes each time with a new business. The construction waste is perpetual with landlord holding short leases. The idea of real estate of its unmovable and permanency nature does not apply in Hong Kong. One’s freedom in Hong Kong is another’s restriction. And so much waste is generated as a result. Yes, so many opportunities if you are in the fitting business.

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