Hong Kong can be recycling world leader

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 1:12am

I agree with the sentiments expressed in your leader ("Time to stop talking rubbish", May 30) that serious action on Hong Kong's waste problem is long overdue. However, I must point out that the Environmental Protection Department's "blueprint" for doing so is far from convincing.

Despite plenty of high-minded rhetoric about changing Hong Kong's mindset and behaviour pattern, there is nothing to suggest that department officials have changed their mindset in any way. The blueprint shows only a dogged pursuit of large-scale engineering projects instead of tackling the root causes of the waste disposal problem.

A careful reading of the report "Hong Kong: Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022" reveals that Hong Kong generates 1.36kg of waste per capita per day (about 9,500 tonnes overall) and of that figure, 1.27kg (or 9,000 tonnes), goes straight to landfill. In other words, the proportion of our waste that is actually being recycled today is less than 6 per cent. Of course the blueprint avoids mentioning this inconvenient fact, somehow conjuring up a figure of 48 per cent waste "recovery", but we know from common-sense daily observation that the latter statistic is just not true.

An even more damning statistic is that a staggering 44 per cent of the waste that goes to landfill is food. That is 4,000 tonnes per day of precious natural resource simply being dumped. And how does the department propose to deal with this? Its plan is to reprocess a mere 500 tonnes (13 per cent) of it per day in two organic waste treatment facilities, to be built by 2017. Most of the rest will be burnt in an inappropriately sited giant incinerator.

There is no excuse for not having mandatory separation of food waste with modern collection and composting facilities throughout Hong Kong. We have the money to invest in such a network, and there should be many who would welcome the employment opportunities; and our natural environment would benefit from an abundant supply of fertiliser. We should be aiming for 100 per cent food waste reduction, recovery and recycling (RRR).

Given similar treatment for the other main categories of waste, paper (22 per cent) and plastic (19 per cent), there is no reason why Hong Kong cannot achieve overall waste reduction targets of 80 per cent or more.

The department should not be given its way to impose simplistic solutions involving land reclamation and mass-burn incineration. Instead, it should be directed to give us a truly world-class waste RRR system. That's where the need for urgent action lies.

Louise Preston, chairman, Living Islands Movement