Contrary to what Mr Williams has suggested, it is a confirmed finding supported by evidence, not assertions, that modern incinerators like the new one proposed for Hong Kong can meet European Union standards.
According to the White Paper on Alternative Waste Conversion Technologies (January 2013) from the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and other similar international reviews, grate-based combustion plants form the vast majority of 2,000 waste-to-energy plants in operation today, with a present throughput of more than 100 million tonnes of municipal solid waste each year. Many modern incinerators can also be found around Asia.
According to ISWA, modern incinerators in operation today are equipped with flue gas cleaning equipment and improved combustion controls and thus easily comply with the strictest emission requirements such as the EU standards. Grate-based technology is proven.
The recent Guidebook for the Application of Waste to Energy Technologies (July 2013) from Columbia University also shows similar findings
The performance results of modern incinerators are readily available on the internet. For example, the performance results of incineration plants in Taiwan can be viewed at their website (epa.gov.tw). The performance of modern incinerators in Europe can also be found on various websites.
It is incorrect for Mr Williams to say that the grate-based technology is outdated. Since the promulgation of the EU's Incineration Directive, there has been continuous improvement in the design of grate-based technology.
The fact is that the majority of thermal treatment facilities commissioned since 2009 have adopted grate-based technology. Many new plants currently under construction around the world also adopt grate-based technology.
At present there is no plasma arc gasification plant in commercial operation for large-scale treatment of municipal solid waste.
The plasma arc gasification plant in Teesside, England, which is being commissioned, would take several years of operation before its performance could be fully confirmed.
We would closely monitor its development and the progress of any other technologies in the future planning of waste treatment facilities for Hong Kong to meet longer-term needs.
Elvis W.K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection