Government figures show about 9,300 tonnes per day of municipal solid waste being dumped in our landfills in 2012.
Hong Kong faces a crisis of not having sufficient disposal capacity to handle waste. All three landfills will be full in a few years.
The Alliance for Promoting Sustainable Waste Management for Hong Kong (comprising academics, professionals and institutions specialising in environmental engineering and science) is disappointed by past governments' slow progress towards concrete policies and legislative proposals for waste reduction and recycling. The government must put in place as soon as possible quantity-based municipal solid waste charging, producer responsibility schemes and concrete measures to help the recycling industry.
But we estimate that even if Hong Kong can achieve a 40 per cent reduction in the waste disposal rate by 2022 as planned, we shall still need to dispose of about 5,000 to 6,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day.
Using waste-to-energy technologies which can substantially reduce the volume of waste (about 90 per cent reduction) is inevitably necessary for Hong Kong. Waste-to-energy plants can now be regarded as a proven technology that can effectively reduce the volume of waste requiring final disposal. They can also generate a substantial amount of surplus energy to serve as a renewable energy source.
The alliance, after comparing the reliability, economics, and environmental impact of different thermal treatment technologies, backs the government's recommendation that mass-burn moving grate incineration technology should be adopted for the first plant. Other emerging but less-proven technologies (for example, plasma gasification ) may be considered when they have become more mature.
The alliance also believes that with the construction of the waste-to-energy facility, although some extension of the existing landfills would still be required, the administration should review the total capacity that needs to be extended to balance the concerns of affected communities.
With the generation and sale of the renewable energy, the government should consider providing direct or indirect betterment measures to the affected communities living near the waste-to-energy and landfill facilities.
We urge legislative councillors to act responsibly and put the overall benefits of the community over regional or sectarian interests and work with the government to facilitate the implementation of the concerned proposals.
Professor Poon Chi-sun, convener, Alliance for Promoting Sustainable Waste Management for Hong Kong