Chinese University to charge for handling waste in pitched battle

Reducing waste a high priority for institution that produced 872 tonnes in 2015/16

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 July, 2017, 8:39pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 July, 2017, 10:40pm

The Chinese University of Hong Kong is preparing to charge its faculties and dormitories for handling waste in a campaign to reduce squander and pave the way for a citywide scheme from 2019.

The university said it also intended to build its own food waste treatment factory to cut transport costs to the government’s facility on Lantau Island for its 2.5 tonnes of daily leftovers.

Sending solid waste to landfill is estimated to cost the university more than HK$300,000 per year, according to the gate fee of HK$365 per tonne proposed by the government.

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This calculation is based on the fact the university produced 872 tonnes of waste in 2015/16, excluding food remains from diners on campus.

“The sum we collect internally will surpass the gate fee because it also covers expenses including designated trash bags, collection and transportation,” said Fan Jor-ching, sustainability manager of the university’s real estate management office.

In order to effectively track waste from more than 150 working units, 25 were chosen to participate in a 10-month pilot scheme. Those selected had produced half the university’s total waste.

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From July last year to April this year, QR codes were affixed to trash bags from six academic departments, six administrative departments and five colleges. Radio frequency identification devices were placed on the trash carts of eight staff residences.

By scanning the codes and reading the devices, the results of weighing and sorting were recorded in a database, allowing the university to estimate charges and formulate reduction strategies.

Details of the internal charging scheme – such as which type of trash bag to use, how to track the waste and how to pass on the costs – were slated to be proposed to university management in a year, Fan said.

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However, the scheme does not cover the two tonnes of daily kitchen waste from campus restaurants. That waste is handled by contractors.

The Environmental Protection Department in May invited the university to send its food waste to the government’s organic resources recovery centre in Siu Ho Wan. The centre is scheduled for commissioning by the end of the year.

However, the department requires the university, as a commercial and industrial user, to bear all collection, separation and transportation costs.

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“It’s too expensive, and there will be tail pipe emission,” Fan said, referring to the 35km separating Siu Ho Wan from the university’s main campus. In addition, there are 35 canteens and restaurants scattered across the 137-hectare institution.

It’s always difficult to be the first in Hong Kong
Fan Jor-ching, Chinese University

Fan said he and his colleagues on a university waste management task force had been for a year pondering building an on-site food waste factory.

The factory would be able to handle three tonnes of food waste per day; the bio gas it produces would be used to generate electricity for the campus.

The department said the government’s environment and conservation fund could render financial support if there was a suitable venue for the facility. Fan acknowledged sites were being considered, but gave no details.

He said he expected rounds of discussions to take place with university management, canteen operators and the government.

“It’s always difficult to be the first in Hong Kong,” he added.