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Typhoon Mangkhut

Hong Kong garbage truck drivers facing up to six-hour delays amid Typhoon Mangkhut clean-up

Long wait times caused by damage to facilities at refuse stations and extra time taken to compact wood waste

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 2:10pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 3:54pm

Garbage truck drivers have been waiting for up to six hours to unload rubbish at waste transfer stations this week, as Hong Kong’s massive clean-up rolled on five days after monster storm Typhoon Mangkhut tore into the city.

Waste Disposal Industry Association chairman Tam Chi-wah said the waiting time for some drivers on Monday – the day after Mangkhut struck – was between four and six hours. The most intense storm to hit the city since records began in 1946 destroyed windows and pavements, left close to 15,000 collapsed or damaged trees in its wake and flung heaps of debris across many parts of the city.

Sea-facing and low-lying areas were the worst affected, but an office tower in Hung Hom also had at least 100 window panels blown out, and its interior units were seriously damaged.

On a radio programme on Friday, Tam said the longest waiting time on Thursday according to official information was two hours. However, he added, he had heard about some drivers waiting for as long as three hours.

“The [official information] only counted time waiting inside those stations, without including time waiting outside on the road,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, Tam added, drivers waited for at most 15 minutes to unload trash at the city’s seven refuse transfer stations.

Garbage from waste collection points across the city is sent to the stations, where it is compacted, packed into containers and then sent to landfills.

Betty Cheung Miu-han, assistant director of the Environmental Protection Department, estimated the city had seen about 30 to 40 per cent more waste after the typhoon.

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Speaking during the same programme as Tam, Cheung said the daily amount of waste handled by the city’s transfer stations was 12,300 tonnes on Tuesday – a surge from the daily average of 8,500 tonnes as recorded last year.

Fifty per cent more time is needed to handle wood waste compared with general waste
Betty Cheung, Environmental Protection Department

“Within a short period of time, many trees fell after the typhoon ... as well as many shattered items,” Cheung said.

Wood and branches could pose challenges for compactor operations at the stations, she added.

“Fifty per cent more time is needed to handle such [wood] waste compared with general waste,” she said.

“The branches and wood could also damage the compactors.”

The typhoon had also inflicted different levels of damage to facilities within the stations, she continued, causing road blockages in some cases. Operations were not as smooth as usual.

To meet the increasing demand for its services, the department lengthened operating times at six of the seven stations as well as at landfills in the west and northeast of the New Territories.

Tam suggested the government in future place fallen wood and trees at a specific location for recyclers to handle and thereby reduce the workload for the refuse transfer stations.

Mangkhut ripped through Hong Kong with wind speeds of up to 195km/h and came within 100km of the city at its closest, resulting in the Observatory keeping its highest warning signal, No 10, in place for 10 hours. Experts estimated developers and homeowners would need to fork out millions to fix buildings mauled by the storm, with one assessor placing the price tag at more than US$1 billion.