Hong Kong advised to stick to its plans for waste-to-energy incinerator

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 4:07am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 4:07am

Hong Kong has been advised to stick to its already-chosen technology for its first waste-to-energy incinerator, the environment minister said yesterday after a fact-finding trip to Europe.

"We are told reliability is the top priority when it comes to the first incinerator," Wong Kam-sing said, reviewing the trip by a delegation to study incineration in Britain, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The government has chosen a moving-grate system that converts waste to ash, flue gas and heat for its planned 3,000-tonne Shek Kwu Chau facility but the delegates also studied the more advanced and much hotter plasma gasification, which critics say is cleaner.

But Wong was unimpressed with the plasma technology, which he believed was less robust and reliable than the mainstream moving-grate technology.

The delegation of officials was joined by nine lawmakers from various parties who, Wong said, were positive about the facilities they saw. But he was still not sure if the politicians were ready to approve the funding request for the incinerator this year.

In Britain, the delegation visited two small-scale plasma-gasification facilities and another one under construction, with a designed capacity of 900 tonnes a day.

Wong said that Europe could afford to diversify its waste incineration as it already had a network of conventional facilities. But Hong Kong, facing a mounting waste crisis, did not have the same luxury.

Apart from technology, Wong was also reassured in his trip that there was no need to offer compensation to the neighbourhood where an incinerator was sited. He said it was a non-issue in Europe, where citizens considered the facilities on a par with police stations, hospitals and schools.