Rezoning existing landfill sites for incinerator not a good idea

I refer to Ian Brownlee’s article (“Community has the know-how to tackle Hong Kong’s waste challenges“, December 2) on South China Morning Post.

Mr Brownlee suggested that the government should consider two waste management initiatives recently proposed by two local NGOs, adopting plasma gasification and rezoning existing landfill sites for incinerators.

I agree that the government should give these initiatives some consideration. Yet on a practical basis, I do not see how they can be a wiser use of public resources than constructing a large incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau. And most certainly, I do not see how these initiatives could expedite the implementation of the proposed incinerator.

For one thing, plasma gasification is an emerging and pricey technology.

It has huge upfront and maintenance costs and has a lengthy payback period.

The cost-effectiveness of such technology has yet to be proved on a massive scale. Therefore, many metropolises have yet to pursue it as one of their primary municipal waste treatment strategies.

Regarding rezoning sites near existing landfills for an incinerator, that is easier said than done.

In 2011, when the Town Planning Board looked into rezoning Tseung Kwan O Area 137 (a parcel of land next to the existing landfill) into the landfill and related facilities, more than 10,000 local residents filed their objections against rezoning. Some of them even threatened to file an application for judicial review should the government decide to implement the board’s final rezoning decision.

Such legal processes will lead to further delays in the construction of the incinerator and not expedite it by at least two years as Mr Brownlee claims.

I understand that Mr Brownlee and the NGO groups that share his views are well-intentioned.

They want to contribute in any way they can to help the government establish a sustainable strategy for Hong Kong’s waste management.

Nonetheless, any new proposal that tries to rationalise the government’s current waste management strategy should be feasible from a public finance standpoint. And more importantly, it should not attempt to create further conflicts between the government and those communities adjacent to a landfill.

This will only lead to more disagreements, a greater accumulation of waste throughout Hong Kong and further delay a strategy which fixes our city’s waste management problems.

<This article appeared in South China Morning Post on 19/12/2013 Letters column as “Rezoning existing landfill sites for incinerator not a good idea” and print edition as “Rezoning landfill sites for incinerator will not solve waste problems”>


One thought on “Rezoning existing landfill sites for incinerator not a good idea

  1. The idea that there is only one option for treating the wastes in Hong Kong and that is to use incineration (or its equivalents as gasification and plasma systems) is not the answer to the issues.
    Holistically the need in Hong Kong (as it is elsewhere in the Peoples Republic of China) is to clean up the environment once and for all, and to do this the issue is to address fumes and smokes in the air as well as the toxic mele of the dioxins and persistent organic pollutants that float around and are ingested in the human body (particularly in the foetus and young children and those over 50) where the results are excessive premature deaths that are estimated to be over 300,000 per year in Hong Kong alone. We have seen in our examination of the issues in Hong Kong that there is a solution which will address this and that is to convert the non-recyclable components in municipal solid waste and convert it to the renewable fuels bioethanol and biobutanol as well as bioDiesel.
    This can be done very effectively by utilising very traditional procedures which we have seen develop from the early 19th Century through to the current day.
    The premier issue for all of us around the world is that such a processing route Must Be Environmentally sound and Financially Sound. Likewise because of China’s sensitive environmental issues such a procedure must not use genetically-modified organisms or enzymes to manufacture these fuels and it must produce more revenue than the costs to manufacture the products.
    Some time ago (in the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s) I went to see various developments around Europe and saw a development which is now going to be built out in Malta Sicily Sardinia Greece and Turkey where the conversion of the organic materials in waste can be converted very readily to these fuels at minimal cost exposure to the Municipal Areas the proposals are being proposed. For example a proposition to treat almost 400,000 tonnes per year of organic waste to make over 100 million litres of the fuel bioethanol is costed at less than €100 Million (i cannot do the calculation to Yuan as I write) and the pay-back period, or the return on investment is less than 4 years. To us here this is an obvious solution in Hong Kong as it provides a clean renewable fuel for transport which would clean up the fumes in the streets at a stroke. And noting that Hong Kong produces over 2,800,000 tonnes per year of waste as organic materials a year this proposition is ideally suited to the area. This proposal is also being built in Holland and Italy and a major programme is in discussion in Eastern Asia and SE Asia.The process here which is being built for Malta is the most environmentally-friendly system that is totally-enclosed in water, emits no fumes or smoke or toxins and leaves no residue.
    It is a modular system and every item of plant can be made within China.
    All equipment is standard and off-the-shelf .
    A typical site – like the one discussed above – need only use around 6 hectares of land and could be sited on any existing waste site.
    All products made are usable.
    This is the system needed for Hong Kong and the Company developing its procedures is Applied Biofuels Limited in Malta.
    So why now should Hong Kong and the PRC take on this issue? Well simply put Hong Kong and the PRC needs to be ahead of the game in Waste Treatment and Renewable Fuels.
    It is understood that the interest in the process is so great that all across the World projects are being proposed. China needs it.

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