A proposed mega-incinerator for Hong Kong, capable of burning one tonne of waste every four minutes, would be the world's largest, environmentalists said yesterday. Friends of the Earth criticised the government for failing to increase the recycling of solid waste. The government was spending too much on getting rid of waste rather than on collecting and separating it at source, the group told the legislature's environmental affairs panel. But one academic warned the panel that too much recycling would create unwanted recycled materials, which might need to be dumped overseas. Friends of the Earth said the incinerator favoured by the officials, with a daily capacity of 5,700 tonnes of solid waste, could be the biggest in the world. It warned about problems faced by some incinerator operators in Taipei. They were faced with not enough waste to burn after the city adopted more vigorous measures to increase recycling and waste separation. 'Why can't the officials divert their determination and efforts away from building the world's largest incinerator and strive for the world's best performance in recycling?' said Hahn Chu Hon-keung, the group's environmental affairs manager. Mr Chu urged legislators not to consider incineration before there was a comprehensive policy for waste reduction and recycling - such as laws to control wasteful packaging. Lister Cheung Lai-ping, chief executive of the Conservancy Association, agreed there was room for Hong Kong to increase recycling. But Poon Chi-sun, a Polytechnic University professor speaking yesterday for the Advisory Council on the Environment, said the recycling rate could not be raised at any cost. 'It is almost impossible to achieve 80 to 100 per cent recycling ... it is even difficult to go beyond 50 per cent,' he said. 'Excessive recycling would create [unwanted recycled waste] - just like what Hong Kong is taking in from Germany and the United States,' he warned. Under the government's proposal, the recycling rate would increase from 40 per cent of solid waste now to 50 per cent by 2014. About 40 per cent of rubbish would be incinerated, with the rest treated biologically and buried in landfills. Assistant director of environmental protection Teresa Wong told the meeting the government needed to plan large-scale waste treatment facilities as the city's landfills would be full in 10 years. Her stance was shared by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. Other groups attending the panel, such as the Federation of Industries and Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, also had no objection to incineration.