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LCQ9: Waste management strategy

     Following is a question by the Hon Lee Wing-tat and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council today (February 1):


     At present, Hong Kong mainly relies on landfills to treat its waste.  Of the 18 000 tonnes of solid waste generated every day, 13 300 tonnes are disposed of at landfills.  According to the progress of the key initiatives in the "Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste (2005-2014)", the Government has made a series of recommendations in respect of waste treatment, reduction and recycling, including the measures of developing an integrated waste management facility (IWMF) with a daily treatment capacity (including sorting and incinerating) of 3 000 tonnes of waste, raising the target of waste recovery rate from the present 49% to 55% by 2015, developing two organic waste treatment facilities (OWTFs) with daily treatment capacity of 200 and 300 tonnes respectively at Siu Ho Wan on North Lantau and Sha Ling in the North District, as well as reducing waste at source through direct economic incentives (e.g. introducing municipal solid waste charging and funding project of on-site food waste treatment), etc.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the breakdown of the volume of solid waste generated, the overall waste disposal rate at landfills and the waste recovery rate in Hong Kong in each of the past five years by type of waste, including glass, metal, plastics, paper, food waste, construction waste, sludge, electronic waste (including old computer and electrical appliance) and other waste (please specify the types);

(b)  of the computation methods, standards and criteria for determining the aforesaid respective treatment capacity and target (including the daily capacity of IWMF to treat 3 000 tonnes of waste, the 55% target rate of waste recovery by 2015, as well as the daily treatment capacity of 200 and 300 tonnes of the two OWTFs);

(c)  whether it has studied and assessed the amount of waste required to be reduced and the extent to which the waste recovery rate is required to be raised in Hong Kong in order to downsize the scale of the aforesaid IWMF and hence reduce its impacts on the environment with the adoption of waste reduction and recycling approaches for waste treatment; and

(d)  given that at present, the Government has indicated that according to the medium to long-term planning strategy for waste management facilities, the construction of the IWMF on the artificial island near Shek Kwu Chau as compared to Tsang Tsui in Tuen Mun will achieve a more well-balanced spatial distribution for waste management facilities in Hong Kong as a whole, yet the Government pointed out in the "Integrated Waste Management Facilities Site Selection Report" in 2008 (the 2008 Report) that compared to Shek Kwu Chau and other potential sites, Tsang Tsui in Tuen Mun had achieved the highest overall score because of "the ease of integration with the existing landfill and waste reception facilities, much less impact on local ecology, shorter construction time, lower construction cost",

(i) whether the Government had referred to the 2008 Report in making the present proposal for the site; why the present proposal differs from the results in the 2008 Report;

(ii) of the respective overall costs for constructing the IWMF on the artificial island near Shek Kwu Chau and Tsang Tsui in Tuen Mun, with a breakdown by cost item (e.g. construction cost, operating cost and transportation cost, etc.); and

(iii) whether it had assessed the respective economic benefits to be brought to the two districts by constructing the IWMF at the two aforesaid sites, with specific figures to illustrate such benefits?



     Treatment of municipal solid waste (MSW) is an unavoidable problem for every city.  Our policy objective is to implement sustainable waste management strategies.  Hong Kong generates about 18 000 tonnes of MSW daily.  After discounting 52% of recovered materials from this generated quantity and adding other solid wastes (such as non-inert construction waste), we have to handle about 13 500 tonnes of waste daily, which are mostly disposed of at landfills before the introduction of large-scale modern waste treatment facilities.   For a small and densely-populated city like Hong Kong, the practice of disposing a large quantity of waste generated daily in landfills is not sustainable.

     To provide a more comprehensive and timely solution to the imminent waste problem in Hong Kong, the Government announced on January 4, 2011 a long-term action agenda to tackle the waste management problem of Hong Kong after reviewing the "2005-2014 Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste" (the Policy Framework).   With "reduce, recycle and proper waste management" as the objective, the action agenda put forward the following three core strategies and the specific implementation timetable:

(i) strengthening efforts in promoting waste reduction at source and recycling at source;
(ii) introducing modern facilities for waste treatment; and
(iii) extending the existing landfills in a timely manner.

     It should be noted that all these three strategies are essential to effectively resolve our waste management problem.  

     The Government has proposed a series of measures on waste treatment, reduction and recycling, which include raising the recovery target of MSW to 55% by 2015 through stepping up publicity and promotional efforts on waste reduction and recycling; expediting the legislative process for introducing new Producer Responsibility Schemes and extending the existing programmes to encourage waste reduction at source; consulting the public on possible options to introduce MSW charging as a direct economic disincentive to reduce waste at source.  We will apply for funding from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council in early 2012 to expedite the development of advanced waste treatment facilities, including the integrated waste treatment facilities (IWTF) that can reduce the waste volume by 90% and turn waste into energy.   In the meantime, we have to push ahead with the extension plans of existing landfills in order to maintain proper management of solid waste in compliance with the green requirements.

     My reply to the question of the Honourable Mr Lee is as follows:

(a)  A breakdown by quantities and major types of solid waste disposed of at landfills in the past five years, and as regards to waste recovery, a breakdown by the quantities generated and recovery rates of the major components of MSW in the past five years is available at the Annex.

(b)  The Government has made reference to the historical trend of waste generation and recovery and the projections of social and economic activities in Hong Kong in assessing the future requirements for waste treatment.  The assessments provided the basis for determining the demand and scale of the related waste treatment facilities.  Waste reduction at source is a key component of our waste management strategy.   As such, we will endeavour to forge a broad consensus within the community for the implementation of various waste reduction initiatives to complement the provision of facilities and upgrading of ancillary hardware.

     Currently, the MSW recovery rate of Hong Kong stands at 52%, which compares favourably with many other cities at a similar level of development.  Indeed, we have also exceeded the targets set in the 2005 Policy Framework (i.e. which aimed for 45% by 2009 and 50% by 2014).  But we need to boost the recovery rate further.  To this end, we will introduce a series of complementary measures and engage the relevant government departments, district councils, community organisations, the property management trade, restaurant operators and social services groups in order to raise the environmental awareness of the people in all walks of life and broaden their participation in waste reduction and recycling.  Our objective is to raise the waste recovery rate to 55% by 2015.

     The treatment capacity of waste treatment facilities was determined after a detailed analysis of various relevant factors.  For instance, in planning the development of the local integrated waste treatment facilities (IWTF), we have reviewed the treatment capacities of similar facilities in other densely populated cities (such as Singapore which features similar demographic and geographical characteristics as Hong Kong) as well as our overall strategy on waste transfer and treatment (i.e. sending most of our local waste for compaction and containerisation at refuse transfer stations before transfer to landfills by marine transport).  The final recommendation was phased development of IWMF in an appropriate scale with the daily capacity of the first phase IWTF set at 3 000 tonnes.

     Currently, Hong Kong disposes of about 3 240 tonnes of food waste a day, of which about 840 tonnes are generated by the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector.  Most of these food wastes end up in landfills.  To address the problem of dumping food waste at landfills, the Government has adopted a multi-pronged approach.  The key strategy is to prevent and minimise food waste generation and promote recovery and recycling to cope with unavoidable food waste through publicity, education and public participation.  As storage of a large amount of food waste will give rise to odour nuisance and hygiene problems, it is not desirable to compact and containerise food waste at existing refuse transfer stations prior to long distance delivery.  Instead, the food waste should be directly delivered to separate purpose-built facilities for special treatment.  To this end, the Government plans to develop two organic waste treatment facilities (OWTF) with a daily capacity of 200-300 tonnes to treat source-separated biodegradable food waste from C&I establishments.  A working group comprising representatives from the restaurant, hotel, property management and food manufacturing trades has been set up to draw up guidelines on ways to minimise, separate and recover food waste food waste.  Through our site search study in 2007, we have identified possible sites at Siu Ho Wan of North Lantau and Sha Ling of North District for development of the first and second phases of the OWTF to treat food waste generated by the C&I sector in North Lantau, West Kowloon and Northern New Territories.  We will also conduct site search studies for developing OWTF in other districts.

(c)  We are committed to stepping up our efforts in reducing waste at source and recycling, as this is the only permanent solution to relieve the pressure for waste treatment.  However, waste reduction at source and recycling cannot completely resolve waste problems in Hong Kong.  The experience in Europe and other advanced cities shows that, even after the implementation of various measures on waste reduction at source, there is still a substantial amount of waste that cannot be recovered which requires treatment.  As in Hong Kong, these cities handle their wastes by incineration in modern waste treatment facilities and landfilling the resultant ash.

     For Hong Kong, there will still be a huge amount of MSW that cannot be recovered or recycled, amounting to about 8 000 tonnes per day (tpd), which requires treatment even after the target recovery rate of 55% is achieved.  Given that our three landfills will become saturated in the next few years, we must plan for waste treatment by modern waste treatment facilities at the earliest opportunity to bring about a substantial reduction in landfilled waste.  In view of the lead time required for planning and construction of waste treatment facilities, we must immediately commence the preparatory work for the first integrated waste management facility (IWMF) with a treatment capacity of 3 000 tpd and the two organic waste treatment facilities (at Siu Ho Wan and Sha Ling respectively).

(d)(i) The proposed site for the IWMF was chosen on the basis of substantial scientific studies and analyses and has taken into account the territory-wide spatial distribution of waste treatment facilities. We first conducted an initial territory-wide site selection study to examine the preliminary data of all possible sites in 2007-08 before identifying the sites at Tsang Tsui Ash Lagoons (TTAL) in Tuen Mun and the artificial island near Shek Kwu Chau (SKC) for further consideration in 2008.

     As required under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance and the Technical Memorandum on the Environment Impact Assessment, we have conducted detailed environmental impact assessments (EIA) for the development of IWMF at these two sites to evaluate the cumulative impact of the project and other projects in respect of noise, air, water quality, waste, ecology, landscape and cultural heritage.  The EIA report also recommended suitable mitigation measures to be adopted for ensuring that the environmental impact was limited to an acceptable level.  It also recommended an environmental monitoring and audit programme for ensuring the effectiveness of these measures.

     The EIA findings indicated that both phased and simultaneous development of IWMF at the two sites would meet the EIA requirements.  Having considered the spatial distribution of our waste management facilities, environmental factors and transport efficiency, the Government selected the artificial island next to SKC as the site for the first IWMF on the following grounds:

- The proposed choice ensures a more balanced spatial distribution of waste facilities.  For the Western New Territories, there is West New Territories Landfill and the proposed West New Territories Landfill extension.  There is also a sludge treatment facility with a capacity of 2 000 tpd under construction at TTAL.  For the North New Territories, there is North East New Territories Landfill and the proposed landfill extension.  For the East New Territories, there is South East New Territories Landfill and proposed landfill extension.  For the urban area, there is Tsing Yi Chemical Waste Treatment Centre.  The development of the IWMF at the southern tip of Hong Kong will help achieve a more balanced spatial distribution of facilities;

- The artificial island next to SKC is closer to the Island East, Island West and Kowloon refuse transfer stations, the catchment area for the IWMF.  The sea route for delivering solid waste from these stations to the artificial island next to SKC is shorten by 25% when compared with the route to TTAL in West New Territories.  Moreover, the choice would not cause significant impact on the marine traffic in the area.  Instead, it can help reduce the marine traffic in Ma Wan;

- The SKC site is far away from the densely populated areas.  It is located at about 3.5 to 5 km from Cheung Chau, which is not in the direction of prevailing wind (northeasterly wind towards southwest in the sea).  The IWMF will have advanced incineration technology and air cleansing systems on site to further minimise impact caused by gas emission on ambient air quality and, hence, the residents nearby; and

- The IWMF and its on-site educational and community facilities under planning would bring considerable economic benefits to the nearby islands (especially Cheung Chau).  Apart from more jobs and ferry services, the development will also bring in streams of workers and visitors that will, in turn, generate other economic activities and benefits.

(ii) Regarding the overall costs, we are working on the estimates for the construction and operation costs of the integrated facilities, the necessary equipment and ancillary facilities.  We will seek funding from the Legislative Council after completing the estimates.

(iii) Regarding the economic benefits generated during the construction and operation of the IWMF, there will be about 1,000 workers working on the island and in the surrounding waters during the peak construction period.  When it commences operation, there will be about 200 workers working every day in the facility.  Besides, the education centre and associated facilities for visitors at the IWMF under planning will also draw in students as well as other visitors.  As the site on SKC is far from the urban areas, Cheung Chau will serve as its key back-up area, both during the construction and operation of the IWMF.  This will provide a great boost to the economic activities related to accommodation, retail and catering trades in Cheung Chau.  As for the TTAL site, it would also draw in comparable number of engineering staff, workers and visitors.  But given its more convenient land transport, they are expected to spend less time at the nearby communities.  As such, this option would generate less economic benefits for the local communities.

Ends/Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:27


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