In response to a reader’s criticism of Hong Kong’s waste management strategy (“Unjustified criticism of waste disposal”, June 21), the undersecretary for the environment, Christine Loh Kung-wai, argues that constructing more waste-treatment facilities, such as waste-to-energy incinerators, and expansion of existing landfills are the only options to transform our waste practices.
As a policy analyst and someone who works closely with the environmental industry, I would argue that this is simply a popular fallacy that drives people into believing that expanding our three existing landfills is the only way to solve our waste-management crisis.
Just look at how New York city deals with its waste. The city does not deal with its waste within the city boundary, but send it to its less populated neighbours for landfill or incineration.
New York city takes on this strategy mainly because it yields three stunning benefits. First, land in the metropolitan area can be saved for dire needs such as affordable housing, park land and office space.
Secondly, there are more jobs and revenue for the neighbouring cities as a result of the influx of waste.
Finally, the city has lower garbage fees from maximising the usage of existing waste-treatment facilities.
We have that luxury in Hong Kong, too. Our not-so-distant neighbour, Shenzhen, has incinerators that are not fully utilised. The facility operators over there certainly want our waste for more revenue.
And from a legal perspective, it is legitimate to send our waste to Shenzhen to be incinerated.
The Basel Convention, the treaty that governs the transportation of waste internationally, states only that our waste could not exported to other countries.
Since Shenzhen and Hong Kong are technically under the same sovereignty, sending waste to Shenzhen therefore is not part of this restriction.
<Posted on South China Morning Post – Letters to the Editor, June 24, 2013>