Incineration key to managing waste

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 June, 2013, 4:36am

I refer to your editorial ("The rubbish of a waste policy", June 25), which described the sorry state we are in regarding our waste disposal system.

Hong Kong produces 9,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste a day. "Hong Kong Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022", published by the Environment Bureau, informs us that 52 per cent of this waste in Hong Kong is dumped in landfills, as against Taiwan's 2 per cent , Singapore's 1 per cent, and Japan's 0 per cent.

This shows us how backward we are in treating this waste compared to Asia's other advanced economies.

Why do they not dump their municipal solid waste in landfills? The difference is, they have incinerators. Taiwan treats 46 per cent of this waste by incineration, Singapore 51 per cent, and Japan 79 per cent. Hong Kong has 0 per cent incineration. Even worse is that the blueprint's target states that by 2022 we will incinerate just 23 per cent of our waste, while 22 per cent of our municipal solid waste will still be dumped in landfills.

If incinerators are such fearful things, emitting toxic gases, then we would have heard reports of deaths or illness among people living near them in Taiwan, Singapore and Japan.

Modern incinerators emit an insignificant amount of toxic gases.

They produce electricity which would help to reduce our electricity costs. They also enable nearby residents to enjoy free hot water, and they can heat up municipal swimming pools in winter.

Why do our legislators not support incinerators? It is because they succumb to their voters' "NIMBY" ("Not In My Back Yard") attitudes. Our politicians are against expanding landfills, and they are against incinerators.

If nothing is done quickly, we will see streets full of refuse by 2018.

Our politicians like to engage in empty talk, such as saying the government should make waste reduction its primary policy. If they are serious about this, they should urge the government to impose a charge on waste immediately. Why the administration has to wait until 2016 to impose such charges is a mystery.

We are recycling 48 per cent of our waste, as against 52 per cent in Taiwan, 48 per cent in Singapore and 21 per cent in Japan, which is not bad. Of course, we should try to do more.

The real solution to our waste problem is to have at least 50 per cent incineration and the balance by recycling our waste. Would our politicians be brave enough to support this?

Alex Woo, Tsim Sha Tsui