• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 1:28am

Avoiding waste and recycling are the best way to solve Hong Kong's environmental challenges

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 3:17am

I refer to the letter by J. R. Paine ("HK needs not one, but three incinerators", July 13).

Friends of the Earth (HK) has been lobbying the government to focus on reducing the generation of waste through appropriate policies, namely, waste charging, producer responsibility and landfill bans.

The crux of our waste problem is our disposal mentality, where we tend to dispose and buy again, rather than save things for reuse.

As a result, Hong Kong generates more waste per capita than other comparable jurisdictions such as Tokyo and Seoul.

In the full spectrum of waste management, we need to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste (which rank higher in the waste management hierarchy), so as to reduce its volume before any thermal treatment or disposal of it at landfills (which rank lower). Our government's past documents state the benefits of focusing on upper-level methods of the waste management hierarchy, though it seems it is still concentrating on lower-level strategies.

Incineration is one method of reducing the volume of waste, but if we do not implement meaningful waste avoidance policies, the city will rely heavily on thermal treatment methods that destroy many useful recyclable materials by turning them into ash (which requires landfill disposal).

With a little planning, these recyclables can instead be retained as raw materials available for reuse by different industries.

Singapore is a classic reference for us to consider, as it relies heavily on incineration and does little on waste avoidance, and still claims to have reached a recycling rate of 58 per cent in 2010. Singapore's four incinerators service a current population of only about 5.3 million.

The reason for industrial solid waste and glass being dumped in Hong Kong's landfills is mainly because there is a lack of waste avoidance policies, coupled with our government not providing subsidies to recyclers to recover low-value recyclables such as glass.

Glass should not be dumped into landfills, as used glass can be recycled to make new glass-based products.

Whether landfills are on land or at sea, they have a limited lifespan. However, if we control our seemingly unquenchable desire for consumption, and design products for recycling ease, these are the most effective and eco-friendly solutions to our growing waste challenges.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, director, general affairs, Friends of the Earth (HK)


More on this story

Letters to the Editor, July 13, 2013
13 Jul 2013 - 12:00am

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This article is now closed to comments

It seems FOE HK does not follow FOE International policies
FOE HK is not listed on FOE Int site
“Incineration is one method of reducing waste” makes no mention of anaerobic digestion (AD).
43% of HK daily MSW is putrescible ultra wet food waste w/ low calorific value unsuitable for incineration.
FOE UK supports AD /FOE HK does not mention it
-need to focus on.. renewable energy via anaerobic digestion.
-we want to achieve zero waste.
can achieve this by: collecting recycling separately at kerbside -collecting food waste separately, for composting or AD
FOE UK opposes incineration because it • Causes climate change while generating energy inefficiently • Destroys valuable materials that could be recycled into new products. Recycling saves far more energy than is created by burning waste • Doesn't provide an incentive for reducing waste, incinerators need a minimum amount of trash to operate efficiently. Incinerator supply contracts are long,requiring waste for 20 years
HK Govt Waste plans drafted 1989 & 2004 stated we would have Producer Responsibility Laws by 2006 (gazetted May 2013) & Waste charging laws by 2007 (proposed 2016)
The former ENB heads were paid to be accountable: they must be held accountable for the current waste & pollution disasters they did little to tackle = Misconduct in Public Office


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