The cost of the war against food waste looks set to balloon after officials yesterday tripled estimates for the city's first organic-waste treatment plant.
The proposed plant in Siu Ho Wan, North Lantau, is now expected to cost HK$1.53 billion, compared with an initial estimate of HK$489 million made in 2010, according to a submission presented to lawmakers.
The increase was attributed mainly to rising construction costs. Other factors included more requirements on pre-treatment facilities, on-site measures to minimise the environmental impact and sewage treatment.
The environment officials said the latest estimate was lower than that quoted by companies bidding for the tender in 2011. The project was retendered last year, with revised specifications and terms.
Last month, officials also reported that the proposed incinerator in Shek Kwu Chau would cost HK$18.2 billion to build - about HK$3.5 billion more than initially estimated.
Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said he would continue to support the funding despite reservations.
"We still need this end-treatment facility no matter how unhappy we are about the government's recycling policy," he said.
The proposed Siu Ho Wan plant will be able to treat 200 tonnes of organic waste each day when it opens by 2016.
The plant will cost HK$72.4 million a year to maintain, meaning the average processing cost per tonne of waste will be about HK$990.
Friends of the Earth's Frances Yeung Hoi-shan said officials should speed up the project or its cost could continue rising.
"They should also start looking at other alternatives for handling food waste," she said. Food waste accounts for one-third of the 9,000 tonnes of waste dumped daily in landfills.
Last month, environment minister Wong Kam-sing said the government would build up to six such plants, with a combined daily capacity of 1,500 tonnes. The second plant will be in North District, while a third may be in Shek Kong.