Statistics show that department is failing to meet waste targets for Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 12:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 9:28pm

Stripped of bureaucratic verbiage, the response by the Environmental Protection Department’s assistant director Wong Hong-meng ( “Hong Kong moving ever closer to waste management target”, February 3) to my letter (“Waste management problems are getting worse in Hong Kong”, January 25) is very revealing.

Contradicting his department’s own data, Mr Wong claims it is “moving in the right direction and not far from its goal” in waste management.

The department’s figures on its website show categorically that it has moved in the wrong direction five years in a row, away from its two major targets. The amount of waste per person disposed daily keeps increasing, while the waste recovery rate keeps decreasing. The 2015 performance is the worst in a decade. Overall performance is moving further away from his department’s goals for 2022.

Mr Wong claims that with the construction of organic waste treatment facilities and an incinerator in Shek Kwu Chau, “we will be seeing a visible drop in waste disposal”.

This is a misunderstanding of the difference between waste disposed and waste generated. The incinerator, organic waste treatment facilities and landfills are for waste disposal. They have no relationship to the total amount of waste generated by people whose habits are not influenced by where their waste ends up.

Mr Wong does not seem to understand that waste disposed is determined by two factors : waste generated and waste recovered. He has failed to grasp this equation – waste disposed is equal to waste generated less waste recovered.

Had he understood this and done some calculations, he would realise that the objective of 0.8kg set for per capita daily waste disposed in 2022 requires a fantastical 40 per cent reduction in waste generated if the waste recovery rate is at the current level of 35 per cent.

He admits that Hong Kong’s limited capacity to absorb recyclables, and dependence on exporting recovered waste, restricts the amount of waste that can be recovered. Yet the department fantasises about a waste recovery rate of 55 per cent by 2022, the rate achieved by countries which do have very effective waste management policies.

Mr Wong parroted the line repeatedly given by his boss, Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing, that Taipei and South Korea successfully reduced waste disposed by imposing waste charging, omitting the fact that mandatory waste separation was critical to their success.

Tom Yam, Lantau