Hong Kong needs a sustainable disposal solution to tackle mounting waste

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 July, 2014, 5:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 July, 2014, 6:01am

Michael Chugani ("Let landfill opponents drown in their own waste," July 16) reveals his lack of understanding of the fundamental issues in waste management.

The fact is that no finite-capacity waste disposal facilities, be they landfills or incinerators, can handle a rising amount of waste. As the population increases (7.8 million residents plus 100 million mainland visitors per year by 2023), the amount of waste will increase, landfills will fill up and any incinerator will operate at maximum capacity, resulting in the vicious cycle of needing more disposal facilities. This is simple mathematics.

The sustainable solution to this dilemma is the drastic reduction of the amount of waste needing disposal. This means the use of waste charging to reduce the amount of waste generated, and sorting the substantial amount of waste that can be recycled. Such a solution has worked in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, South Korea and Taiwan.

Effective waste charging and recycling requires the development of an infrastructure to collect, sort and separate waste at source, to transport non-recyclable and recyclable waste to its respective destinations, and to create a recycling industry that transforms recyclable waste into marketable products.

The objections to the Environment Bureau's proposal to expand landfills and build an incinerator are not driven by obstructionist legislators and not-in-my-backyard lobbies, but by the bureau's decade-long failure to create a comprehensive waste sorting, separation and recycling programme. Even now there is no such programme in sight.

The key government departments involved in waste management are not working together on this issue. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is responsible for collecting and transporting waste to landfills, and the Housing Department oversees public housing where half of Hong Kong's population lives.

Without cooperation among these departments and the Environmental Protection Department, no thorough waste-management programme can be implemented.

Thus a prime objection to the bureau's proposal is the futility of spending HK$9 billion on landfill expansions and HK$18.24 billion on an incinerator without solving the fundamental problem. The bureau is taking the easy way out, using taxpayers' money.

Chugani has fallen for the environment secretary's alarmist line that there is no alternative. But several viable alternatives were proposed, and it is not too late to adopt them. There's just no political will.

Kim Chai, Lantau