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Hong Kong must act quickly to tackle imminent waste problem (with video)

     The Government announced today (January 4) a comprehensive waste management strategy and action plan to tackle the imminent waste problem facing Hong Kong.

     The Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, said, "The Government has devised a concrete action plan which includes a number of initiatives to reduce waste at source, coupled with modern waste treatment facilities and extension of landfills, to tackle the imminent waste problem using a multi-pronged approach."

     At present, about 13,300 tonnes of waste are disposed of at landfills every day, of which about 9,000 tonnes comprise non-recyclable municipal solid waste (MSW), 900 tonnes are sludge generated from the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme or other sewerage treatment processes, and about 3,200 tonnes are attributable to construction waste.

     As the three existing landfills are expected to approach full capacity one-by-one from 2014 onwards, Hong Kong has an urgent need to enhance its waste management systems.

     "The foremost task is reducing waste at source and our success rests on how we coordinate hardware facilities as well as achieving behavioural change among the public. Recycling facilities already cover 80% of the Hong Kong community. However, the Government will step up its efforts on this front. We will look into ways to encourage waste reduction and recovery through economic means. Our target is to increase the waste recovery rate from the current 49% to 55% in 2015," Mr Yau said.

     The major tasks for reducing waste at source include strengthening district recycling facilities and networks on various fronts, implementing the next stage of the Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS), including stage two of the plastic shopping bag levy scheme and the PRS for waste electrical and electronic equipment, as well as launching a public consultation on MSW charging.

     Mr Yau also pointed out that our current practice of relying on landfills alone in treating waste is not sustainable. Hong Kong must follow other advanced economies by planning to adopt modern technology such as a waste incineration facility and a food waste processing facility to raise our standards of waste treatment.

     He stressed that these facilities would comply with the highest environmental standards. Besides relieving the pressure on landfills by significantly reducing the volume of waste, they can also transform waste into energy. They are an essential component of a modern waste management strategy.

     As regards the proposed extension of the Tseung Kwan O landfill (also known as the South East New Territories landfill), Mr Yau noted that the Government was aware of the strong views opposing the plan and also of its proximity to residential area.

     "After two months of thorough consideration, the Government has decided to amend the original proposal of expanding Tseung Kwan O landfill by 20.6 hectares. Firstly, the Administration will not seek to utilise the five hectares of land inside Clear Water Bay Country Park for landfill extension. Secondly, the Administration will reduce the area of landfill extension in Tseung Kwan O Area 137 to around 13 hectares. Thirdly, in response to the concern of the Sai Kung District Council, we have decided under the landfill extension project that only odourless waste (such as construction waste) will be sent to the Tseung Kwan O landfill with a view to further relieving the odour problem of Tseung Kwan O landfill," he said.

     He explained that as certain procedures have to be completed prior to the development of the integrated waste treatment facility, it might not be commissioned until 2018. In the short-term, the Government must make further preparations for the ongoing utilisation of the landfills. The Government must earmark and level the land needed for the disposal of solid waste generated daily in Hong Kong before the landfills are filled up.

     In the medium and long-term, even with continuous efforts in waste reduction and including modern incineration facilities, Hong Kong will still need  landfills to cater for unavoidable waste such as municipal solid waste, which cannot be treated due to the limited scale of incineration facilities, as well as non-combustible waste and incineration ashes.
     Mr Yau said that by diverting waste to suitable facilities and after the commissioning of other waste management facilities (such as the sludge treatment facility and organic waste treatment facility), it was estimated that the lifespan of the Tseung Kwan O landfill could be extended to around 2020 under the amended proposal, thus allowing for a period of overlap with the planning of a new permanent construction waste transfer facility. The new proposals have already minimised the area of extension of the landfill in order to address the concern of local residents.

     "The way forward I have just outlined provides a clear blueprint for the waste management in Hong Kong in 2030 and it can be taken forward only with the concerted efforts of the community as a whole, relevant districts, political parties, councillors and the general public. We hope that the Legislative Council will offer realistic and attainable views on the Government's strategy and share responsibility with a pragmatic attitude and in the best interests of the whole community. We look forward to the understanding of the public towards the imminent waste management problem and their support for our work by participating in waste reduction and recovery and making good use of resources," Mr Yau concluded.

Ends/Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:05


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