Environment Hong Kong 2006
Environmental Protection Department

| Vision and Mission | Foreword | Director's Message | Summary | Contents | English | Traditional Chinese | Simplified Chinese |

| 1. Introduction | 2. Cross-boundary and International Co-operation | 3. Community Awareness | 4. Customer Service and Partnership | 5. Environmental Assessment and Planning | 6. Air | 7. Noise | 8. Waste | 9. Water | 10. Conservation | 11. Environmental Compliance |


Chapter 8 - WASTE

 
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Mission

To safeguard the health and welfare of the community from adverse environmental effects associated with the handling and disposal of wastes by developing a sustainable waste management strategy, providing waste management facilities and enforcing the controls in the Waste Disposal Ordinance.

 

Highlights in 2005
Unveiled "A Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste (2005-2014)", outlining a comprehensive package of measures to deal with municipal solid waste.
Passed the Waste Disposal (Charges for Disposal of Construction Waste) Regulation to enable charges to be levied for the disposal of construction waste at landfills, sorting facilities and public fill reception facilities.
Introduced floor-based source separation of waste in housing estates.
Commissioned a low-level radioactive waste storage facility on Siu A Chau.
Introduced a bill to control the disposal of clinical waste.

 

THE FOURTH 'R'

The 3Rs slogan of "Reduce, Re-use, Recycle" has been at the heart of our public education efforts on waste. This catchy phrase has helped focus attention on the unsustainable levels of waste being generated in Hong Kong. Yet it leaves out a crucial overarching element, that of "Responsibility". Hong Kong's landfills are rapidly running out of space and our waste loads keep increasing. The only way to solve this crisis is if everybody, consumers and producers alike, urgently takes responsibility for reducing waste.

Photo - A comprehensive package of measures will address our waste problem.

Photo - Responsibility is the crucial overarching element to 3Rs.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is seeking to provide the necessary facilities and education so the community can fulfil its responsibilities. In December 2005 we released "A Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste (2005 -2014)", a comprehensive package that addresses every stage of waste generation and disposal. Goals have been set and strategies outlined so we can achieve a rapid reduction in waste loads. In order for the Policy Framework to succeed, though, everybody will need to understand the urgency of the waste problem and their role in helping to address it.

 

The Problem of Waste

Photo - Hong Kong’s imminent waste problem.

Waste loads in Hong Kong are growing at a much faster rate than the population. Over the past nine years municipal solid waste loads have increased by about three per cent annually while the population has grown on average by only 0.9 per cent. Our consumption-led lifestyle is putting enormous pressure on the three existing landfills. In early 2005, it was estimated the three existing landfills would be full in six to 10 years. Furthermore, if waste loads continue to increase at the current trend, we will need an additional 400 hectares of landfill space to meet our waste disposal needs up to 2030. Hong Kong has hardly any suitable sites for new landfills. Clearly, we need a more sustainable way of dealing with our waste.

The EPD has made it a top priority to reduce waste loads and for many years has been working towards this end. In 2005, our efforts received a significant boost when waste management received high-level recognition from two sources. First, in May, the Government set out the broad strategic direction on solid waste management in the Government's "A First Sustainable Development Strategy for Hong Kong". Then in October the Chief Executive gave it priority in his Policy Address and Policy Agenda. Riding on this positive momentum, the EPD has been able to push a number of initiatives forward, as outlined in the Policy Framework.

Photo - Trends of Hong Kong waste generation between 1996 and 2004.

Photo - Our goal is to reduce the total of domestic, commercial and industrial waste.

Our chief goal is to reduce the sum total of domestic, commercial and industrial waste, including waste that is recycled and landfilled, by one per cent per year from now until 2014, as against the current three per cent growth rate. We also want to increase the overall recovery rate of waste to 50 per cent by 2014 from 40 per cent today. Finally, we aim to reduce the proportion of municipal solid waste (MSW) dumped at landfills to less than 25 per cent as against 60 per cent today. Achieving these goals will require a concerted strategy that embraces all stages of waste generation, as well as the full support and participation of the public.

 

Tackling at Source

The first step in reducing waste is to start at source, where waste can be minimised, recycled and recovered. Commercial and industrial operators already do quite well, recovering some 60 per cent of their waste. But the recovery rate for domestic waste is low, only 14 per cent. Waste recycling in housing estates, introduced in 1998, helped raise the rate a little by providing bins outside blocks for waste paper, aluminium cans and plastic bottles. The EPD is now seeking to bring source separation of waste closer to people's homes to make it easier to participate. In 2005 a floor-based source separation scheme was launched and aims to have 80 per cent of the population in Hong Kong participating in the scheme by 2010 (see box). Significantly, the range of recyclables collected is being vastly increased. The goal is to recover 26 per cent of domestic waste by 2012, nearly double the current rate.

We are also seeking to provide outlets for recovered waste by enhancing the Hong Kong-based recycling industry. More than 90 per cent of recovered materials currently are exported for recycling, a tenuous situation given the volatility of market demand and the international trend towards restricting trans-boundary movements of waste, even recyclable waste. In recent years the Government has provided short-term tenancies to recyclers at affordable prices. We are also building the EcoPark in Tuen Mun, where from the end of 2006 operators will have a permanent location for recycling locally produced waste (see box).

 

Incentives to Reduce Waste

Apart from reducing and recycling waste at source, we are introducing incentives through user pay charges and producer responsibility schemes. Everyone who generates waste will be responsible for its management, a policy that enshrines the polluter pays principle and encourages people to throw away less. In December 2005 the Construction Waste Disposal Charging Scheme came into operation (see box). We are now working on a proposal for municipal solid waste disposal charges, hoping to introduce a bill into the Legislative Council in 2007. Needless to say, the measure requires the public to appreciate the urgency of our waste problem and see the wisdom in making polluters pay for management of their waste.

Producer responsibility schemes (PRSs) require manufacturers, importers, retailers and consumers to recover and recycle products that otherwise end up in the waste stream. A pilot scheme for rechargeable batteries has been carried out with the trade to test the viability of voluntary PRSs and in 2006 we will introduce a bill into the Legislative Council to provide a legal framework for mandatory PRSs. We aim to introduce regulations for waste tyres, plastic shopping bags and electrical and electronic equipment in 2007; for packaging materials and beverage containers in 2008; and for rechargeable batteries in 2009. With other outlets available for these products, we would then consider imposing landfill disposal bans on some of these end-of-life products so as to make better use of our landfills as the final repository of unavoidable and properly treated wastes.

Photo - The implementation programme for some of the Producer Responsibility Schemes.

 

Treatment and Disposal

Tackling waste at source and providing incentives to promote recycling will help reduce waste loads by 50 per cent by 2014. That still leaves some waste that is unavoidable. The EPD is seeking to properly treat this waste and reduce its bulk so less landfill space is taken up. Based on the recommendations of the Advisory Group on Waste Management Facilities, we will adopt a multi-technology approach. Source-separated biodegradable waste from commercial and industrial establishments will be given biological treatment and may be turned into compost. Mixed municipal solid waste will be treated by mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) and thermal treatment. MBT will reduce the volume by about 50 per cent through further sorting out of recyclables and stabilising the biodegradable fraction. The remaining waste not treated by MBT will receive thermal treatment, probably incineration, which would reduce its bulk by about 90 per cent. The EPD believes modern incineration would be a safe, acceptable solution in Hong Kong, as proven by its use in many advanced countries, such as Germany, The Netherlands, Singapore and Japan. We intend to have waste treatment facilities commissioned within the next decade.

Photo - A food waste composter turns biodegradable waste into compost.

If we can introduce all of these measures in tandem, the proportion of municipal solid waste disposed of in landfills would drop to less than 25 per cent by 2014, as against 60 per cent at present. Landfills would still be necessary as the final repositories for residual waste that cannot be recycled or further treated - and we are pursuing an $8.3 billion programme to extend the existing landfills - but they would not be the main solution.

The future of waste management in Hong Kong rests with the community’s acceptance of the fourth 'R', Responsibility. Everybody needs to strive to reduce the amount of waste they generate and separate much of the rest for recycling. They must also accept that they are polluters and are subject to the polluter pays principle. It is unfair and bad economics to continue providing free disposal. Those who seek to help the environment and reduce their waste will save money. Those who continue to be profligate must be made to pay.

 

Box Features:

SOURCE SEPARATION

The EPD recognises that in asking people to reduce waste, we need to make recycling more accessible. Our Waste Recycling Campaign in Housing Estates placed collection bins in every block. Now, with source separation, we are placing bins, racks or bags on every floor of apartment blocks where possible. The types of recyclables collected have also been expanded from waste paper, aluminium cans and plastic bottles to any type of recyclable material. By the end of 2005, 223 housing estates had signed up for floor-based source separation, representing 1.1 million people. In some estates, the programme helped them to increase the quantity of recyclables collected by more than 50 per cent and reduce the waste they sent to landfills by about three per cent. The EPD aims to have 80 per cent of the population in Hong Kong participating in the source separation scheme by 2010.

The EPD is also seeking to encourage more recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment. A pilot recycling scheme has been set up at the Kowloon Bay Refuse Transfer Station, which has been temporarily closed for a few years. The Caritas and St James' Settlement charities are refurbishing the equipment and giving it to the needy or, if it is not reparable, dismantling it for spare parts and recycling. The scheme is helping to pave the way for mandatory producer responsibility. The EPD is also co-operating with the Chamber of Hong Kong Computer Industry to develop a six-month pilot scheme to recycle computers.

Photo - Floor-based source separation in housing estates facilitates households to separate their wastes.

 

ECOPARK

The 20-hectare EcoPark in Tuen Mun will provide long-term land at an affordable rent for local recyclers, thus helping Hong Kong to make use of its recovered materials. Currently a lot of the recyclable waste collected in Hong Kong is exported to the Mainland for recycling. It is hoped the EcoPark will help to advance recycling operations in Hong Kong so more recycling is done here, using local waste to make local products. A proposal for the EcoPark received general support from the Legislative Council in 2005. Funding will be sought in early 2006, with the aim of getting the first phase of the park ready for occupation by the end of the year.

 

CHARGING FOR WASTE DISPOSAL

A milestone in waste management was achieved in January 2005 when the Waste Disposal (Charges for Disposal of Construction Waste) Regulation was passed to allow charges to be levied for the disposal of construction waste. The aim is to reflect the polluter pays principle and encourage people to reduce construction waste. High priority was given to construction waste because it accounts for up to 40 per cent of the total solid waste disposed of at landfills.

From 20 January 2006, construction waste producers will be charged $27 per tonne to deposit inert waste at public fill reception facilities, $100 to deposit waste with more than 50 per cent inert content at sorting facilities, and $125 to deposit waste containing 50 per cent or less inert content at landfills. Construction waste with more than 50 per cent inert content will not be accepted at landfills and will be diverted to public fill reception facilities or sorting facilities. The EPD has worked closely with all key stakeholders to gain acceptance for the charges through meetings and numerous briefings with the trade, which is generally supportive of the charging scheme.

Photo - The Construction Waste Disposal Charging Scheme takes effect in January 2006.

Photo - A truck driver hands chit to the weighbridge operator at a landfill site.

 

CONTROLLING CLINICAL WASTE AND WASTE IMPORTS

The EPD has devised a cradle-to-grave solution for managing clinical waste, which currently is disposed of in special trenches at two of our landfills. An amendment bill was presented to the Legislative Council in May 2005 requiring the waste to be properly segregated, packaged, labelled, collected and treated at the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre.

The amendment bill also included proposed measures to tighten the control of waste imports and exports. Significantly, it would be an offence to dispose of imported non-hazardous waste in Hong Kong landfills without proper authorisation. Authorisation would not be granted unless the applicant could meet very stringent requirements and he would need to pay the administrative and disposal costs. To formalise the Basel Ban which the EPD has administratively implemented since 1998, it was proposed to stipulate in the WDO that no import permit would be issued for importing hazardous waste coming from developed countries.

 

SIU A CHAU

A low-level radioactive waste storage facility was commissioned on Siu A Chau in 2005, enabling the waste to be moved out of urban areas. Its storage capacity is estimated to be sufficient to accommodate existing and future waste arisings in Hong Kong for the next 100 years.

 

Looking Ahead
Introduce a Product Eco-responsibility Bill into the Legislative Council to provide a legal framework for Producer Responsibility Schemes (PRSs).
Seek views of stakeholders on introducing PRSs for waste tyres, plastic shopping bags and electrical and electronic equipment.
Introduce the clinical waste regulation to control the collection and disposal of clinical waste.
Expand the territory-wide Source Separation Programme for domestic waste and introduce floor-based source separation in 470 estates.
Commission Phase 1 of the EcoPark, developed exclusively for the environmental and recycling industry, ready for occupation.
Start charging for disposal of construction waste at waste disposal facilities.
Commission restoration facilities at the closed landfill at Pillar Point Valley.

 



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