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LCQ7: Municipal solid waste management

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 3):


     The Legislative Council has earlier repealed the Country Parks (Designation) (Consolidation) (Amendment) Order 2010 and as a result the Government is unable to extend the South East New Territories (SENT) Landfill in Tseung Kwan O.  Some residents in West New Territories are worried that as the SENT Landfill cannot be extended, extra burden will be put on the West New Territories (WENT) Landfill at Nim Wan in Tuen Mun.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the amount of waste handled every day by the WENT Landfill at present and when the landfill is expected to reach its capacity;

(b) given that it is not able to extend the SENT Landfill, of the estimated amount of additional waste to be transferred to the WENT Landfill for disposal every day after the SENT Landfill has reached its capacity, and whether this will shorten the time for the WENT Landfill to reach its capacity;

(c) whether the Environment Bureau has considered extending the WENT Landfill; if it has, of the details and the progress of consultation with the residents; whether the authorities will install additional deodorisation facilities to tie in with the current situation and utilisation of the landfill;

(d) given the pressure opposing the extension of landfills, whether the authorities will expedite the development of Integrated Waste Management Facilities and increase their scale, while at the same time actively consider making source separation of waste mandatory so as to tackle the problem of solid waste disposal in a multi-faceted manner; if they will, of the details; and

(e) given that the Government will build an incinerator at Tsang Tsui for sludge treatment in due course and, by then, Tuen Mun will become a focal point for waste disposal in Hong Kong, and turn into a community where land-filling, incinerating and recycling activities are all found, whether the authorities will, prior to setting up various waste disposal facilities, make communal compensation that meets the aspirations of both the residents and the District Council of Tuen Mun, including making adjustments to the planning for Tuen Mun and allocating additional resources to turn Tuen Mun into a community for the development of advanced recycling industry, thereby substantially increasing the employment opportunities there?



(a) On average around 5,600 tonnes of solid waste were disposed of at the West New Territories (WENT) Landfill per day in 2009.  It is estimated that the WENT Landfill will be full by late 2010s.

(b) At present, the solid waste delivered to the South East New Territories (SENT) Landfill for disposal is mostly collected from Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Sai Kung District by private waste collectors.  If the SENT Landfill is not extended in time before it reaches its capacity, about 1,000 cross-district refuse collection vehicle trips will be incurred each day to deliver the waste to other districts for disposal.  These cross-district trips will bring additional traffic flow and associated pressure on the environment along the delivery routes and at the other two landfills.

(c) In "A Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste" published in 2005, the Government points out that we have been actively working on waste reduction, recovery and recycling.  However, the three existing landfills in Hong Kong will be full, one by one, in mid to late 2010s.  There is an urgent need to extend these landfills to serve as the final repositories for non-recyclable and residual waste.

     The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has briefed the relevant district council, rural committee, green groups and professional bodies on the details of the WENT Landfill Extension project on many occasions since 2004.  In early 2007, the EPD commenced the engineering feasibility and environmental impact assessment (EIA) study for the project.  According to the EIA report, with the implementation of the necessary environmental mitigation measures, the environmental impacts of the project would be acceptable.  The EIA report was made available for public inspection between August and September 2009 under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance.  Upon consultation with the Advisory Council on the Environment and completion of the related statutory procedures, the EIA report was approved in late 2009.  The EPD will continue to liaise closely with the local community to keep the public updated on the project.

     To further respond actively to the views and expectations of the Tuen Mun residents and Tuen Mun District Council (TMDC) on overall development of the district, the Environment Bureau set up in 2009 the Tuen Mun Development Liaison Working Group comprising representatives from relevant policy bureaux and departments as well as Tuen Mun District Councillors.  The Group discusses and examines the opportunities of overall development for Tuen Mun and takes appropriate follow-up actions, including upgrading and enhancing the existing and planned environmental facilities in the district, so as to meet the community needs.

     Regarding the management of environmental facilities, it is the EPD's aim to ensure that the operation of these facilities meets the highest international standards.  On odour control, the EPD has implemented a series of control measures to ensure that the odour impact of the WENT Landfill will not adversely affect the nearby residents.  These include:

* covering the non-active tipping areas with soil and temporary impermeable liner;
* installing extra landfill gas extraction wells in addition to the existing landfill gas extraction system;
* installing extra landfill gas flaring units;
* providing mobile deodorisers at the tipping area; and
* covering the active tipping areas with Posi-shell Cover temporarily.

(d) Recently, the proposal of landfill extensions has aroused public concern on waste management.  In "A Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste" published in 2005, we have clearly stated that to address the waste management issues, a multi-pronged approach of waste reduction, recovery and modern waste management facilities must be adopted.  The promotion of source separation is essential for waste reduction at source.  With the EPD's efforts to promote domestic waste recovery facilities in recent years, currently about 80% of the population has waste separation facilities provided in their housing estates.  In the past five years, the recovery rate of domestic waste increased from 16% in 2005 to 35% in 2009, bringing about a rise in the overall municipal solid waste (MSW) recovery rate to 49% in 2009.  This means a decrease in the quantity of waste disposed of at landfills.  Starting from December 2008, every new domestic building or the domestic part of a new composite building must provide a refuse storage and material recovery room on every floor to facilitate source separation of waste.  As for producer responsibility schemes, we are preparing a new scheme on waste electrical and electronic equipment following the successful implementation of the plastic bag levy.  Regarding the food waste issue, the Government has been encouraging schools and non-profit making organisations, through the Environment and Conservation Fund, to set up small scale food waste composters in their premises.  It has also organised various educational and promotional activities to promote avoidance of food waste.  In addition, the EPD is now collaborating with the commercial and industrial sector to organise a "Food Waste Recycling Partnership Scheme" with the objectives of promoting good food waste management, including source separation and recycling of food waste and the setting up of food waste composters in large shopping centres and food establishments.

     At present, nearly all the non-recyclable waste in Hong Kong is disposed of at landfills.  This is not in line with the principles of sustainable development.  We are preparing an EIA report on the proposed development of integrated waste management facilities in Tuen Mun and Shek Kwu Chau.  The organic waste treatment facilities with modern waste treatment technology will also be developed at Siu Ho Wan of North Lantau.

     In the light of recent public concern on waste management, we are reviewing the implementation of the MSW strategy.  The Environment Bureau has been consulting Members of the Legislative Council on the overall strategy with a view to building a consensus.  We plan to submit the review findings to the Panel on Environmental Affairs of the Legislative Council for discussion by end 2010 or early 2011.

(e)  As mentioned in part (c) of this reply, the Environment Bureau set up in 2009 the Tuen Mun Development Liaison Working Group comprising representatives from relevant policy bureaux and departments as well as Tuen Mun District Councillors.  The Group discusses and examines the opportunities of overall development for Tuen Mun.  

     In the sludge treatment facility contract recently awarded, the EPD has made reference to the TMDC's views on architectural and landscape design in adopting a wave-form and streamlined design for the main building, which will blend well with the surrounding environment.  An Environmental Education Centre, hydrotherapy pools, ecological gardens, a 25-metre high fountain and green open space will be available for public use and visit.  We expect that about 600 jobs and 60 long-term jobs will be created during the construction and operation of the facility respectively.  In response to the TMDC's request, we will set up an air quality monitoring station in Tuen Mun town area to provide data on local air quality, so that we can ensure that the operation of the sludge treatment facility will not adversely affect the surrounding environment.

Ends/Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Issued at HKT 13:21


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