ONE company's waste oil is another company's treasure. But if Hong Kong's fledgling oil-recycling business gets off the ground, the real winner will be the territory's environment and its citizens. 'When people burn waste oil as a fuel, it creates a lot of toxic pollutants in the air,' said Daniel Cheng, managing director of Dunwell Industrial (Holdings). 'What we are offering as an alternative is recycling.' One of Dunwell's subsidiaries has the technology, plant and business licence to treat waste oil and turn it into reusable products. Asia Environmental Management (AEM) launched its recycling project in August 1993 when it took over a 100,000-square-foot waste oil re-refining and blending plant in Yuen Long. The plant, which was built by an Australian company, now has the capacity to process 50 tonnes of spent oil a day, or about 1,400 tonnes per month. Mr Cheng estimated Hong Kong's automotive, construction and industrial industries generated up to 1,500 tonnes of waste oil each month. However, AEM's plant was operating below capacity. 'In the United States and Canada, out of all the oil being sold, only seven per cent is being recycled,' Mr Cheng said. 'In Hong Kong, we are doing better than seven per cent but we need more support from the Government to stop the export of waste into China.' AEM's main problem is getting a steady supply of used oil. It needs to convince businesses, the Government and the community to embrace the concept of oil re-refining. Mr Cheng said it would initially be tough to convince people to pay for a 'green' service when they could get rid of their waste oil for nothing. 'The people who take the oil drums away for free, sell the waste oil in China, untreated, as a fuel,' Mr Cheng said. 'They are still the biggest competitors in the market. It is very tempting for people.' Other businesses still pour their waste oil down the drain. Mr Cheng said that, for a feee of $318, the Government would haul away oil drums for incineration at its chemical waste treatment facility run by Enviropace on Tsing Yi Island. AEM charged between $100 and $200 to cart away each 200-litre drum of spent oil for re-refining. The price varied depending on the quality of the oil and the amount of re-refining involved. To raise awareness about the AEM option, the company is offering tours of its Yuen Long plant to potential customers. 'So far, we have had about 300 visitors representing about 60 major companies,' Mr Cheng said in providing details of the firm's first two months of operation. 'During the tour, they learn about our process on the technical side, how we recycle oil and how we handle waste air and water being generated in order to meet Environmental Protection Department standards.' The big oil companies process crude oil into things like fuel. The re-refining process turns spent engine and industrial oils collected from places such as auto shops, petrol stations and government fleets into reusable oil stock. 'We are studying this complete recycling programme and it does not show any difference between the original name-brand product and our finished product,' Mr Cheng said. AEM sells re-refined motor oil and hydraulic oil to businesses in Hong Kong and China. It is looking at working with a major oil company to jointly develop a 'green' oil. Mr Cheng will discuss oil re-refining during a panel session at the Business and Industry Environment Conference.