Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 83rd Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 26 March 2001 at 2:30 p.m.

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. Daniel M. C. CHENG  
Mr. Barrie COOK (WRC Chairman under item 5)  
Prof. Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP  
Prof. Peter HILLS  
Dr. HO Kin-chung  
Mr. Edward S. T. HO, SBS, JP  
Mr. KWOK Kwok-chuen, BBS  
Prof. LAM Kin-che (EIA Subcommittee Chairman under item 4)  
Mr. Edwin C. K. LAU  
Dr. LEONG Che-hung, JP  
Mr. LOH Ah Tuan  
Dr. NG Cho-nam  
Mr. Otto L. T. POON  
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH  
Ms Iris TAM  
Miss Alex YAU  
Mr. Plato YIP  
Mr. Donald TONG (Secretary)  

Absent with Apologies:
Prof. Dennis S. C. LAM
Mr. Peter Y. C. LEE, SBSt.J
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP
Prof. WONG Yuk-shan


In Attendance:

Mrs. Lily YAM Secretary for the Environment and Food (SEF)
Mr. Kim SALKELD Deputy Secretary (B), Environment and Food Bureau (EFB) (DS(B)/EFB)
Mr. Thomas CHOW Deputy Secretary (C), EFB
Mr. Mike STOKOE Deputy Director of Environmental Protection (DDEP)
Mr. P K CHUNG Acting Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department (PlanD)
Mr. C C LAY Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)
Mrs. Pauline LING Chief Information Officer, EFB
Ms. Polly LEUNG Principal Information Officer, Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (B), EFB
Miss Cora SO Executive Officer (B), EFB

In Attendance for Agenda Item 1

Mr. Benny WONG Assistant Director (Waste & Water), EPD (AD (WW)/EPD)
Mr. C H LAM Assistant Director (Sewage Services), Drainage Services Department (AD(SS)/DSD)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 5

Ms. Annie CHOI Principal Assistant Secretary (B)2, EFB (PAS(B)2/EFB)
Dr. Ellen CHAN Acting Assistant Director (Waste Facilities), EPD (Atg. AD(WF)/EPD)
Dr. Lawrence WONG Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Facilities Planning), EPD (PEPO(FP)/EPD)


The Chairman welcomed Mr. Loh Ah Tuan, Director of Environmental Policy & Management, Ministry of the Environment from Singapore. While he appreciated that Mr. Loh could not be able to attend every meeting, he welcomed Mr. Loh to suggest issues of common interest for discussion in future meetings.

Agenda Item 1 : The Way Forward for Sewage Treatment for the Harbour Area
(ACE Paper 8/2001)

2. The Chairman welcomed AD(WW)/EPD and AD(SS)/DSD to the meeting. DS(B)/EFB highlighted to Members the Administration's initial responses to the recommendations made by the International Review Panel (IRP) on the review of the way forward for the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS) [now renamed as Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS)]. He said that the Administration would strongly welcome Members' views on the proposed way forward for HATS and invited the Council to nominate four Members to join the Monitoring Group to be chaired by the SEF to oversee the proposed studies and trials.

3. The Chairman was glad to know from Chart 1 on P.5 of the booklet "A Clean Harbour for Hong Kong" that toxic metal loading in Victoria Harbour had reduced significantly over the past few years. However, he was concerned about the overall pollution loading in the Harbour and in typhoon shelters such as the one in Causeway Bay where untreated pollutants were seen floating.

4. AD(WW)/EPD said that it was anticipated that toxic metal loading in the Harbour would reduce from 1.5 tonnes/day to about 600 kg/day after completion of Stage I of the HATS. HATS's main focus had been to provide a suitable level of treatment and disposal method for wastewater collected from sewage system. The Administration was aware that wastewater that discharged into storm water drains was a source of pollution for the Harbour. EPD and DSD were working on that front through pollution source control and engineering solutions. As regards the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, DDEP said and AD(SS)/DSD confirmed that works were being undertaken in that area to improve the sewerage system under the Sewerage Master Plan.

5. The Chairman said that the Water Quality Objectives (WQOs) had been set some years ago. The Administration should review them having taken into account public aspirations for the future of the Harbour. AD(WW)/EPD said that the consultant of the HATS had consulted the public when the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study of HATS was conducted. EPD would further consult the public and interest groups on the criteria to be used in assessing the acceptability of discharging treated effluent in the Harbour.

6. A Member recalled that according to IRP, the marine environment of the Harbour would still suffer from problems like algae bloom even if the WQOs were met. He urged the Administration to revise the WQOs so as to make the marine environment sustainable.

7. In response to a Member's question, DS(B)/EFB said that the proposed trials and studies were necessary for the Government to ascertain whether the BAF technology and the IPR options were technically and economically viable, and to address other key questions such as the availability of land, the capital and recurrent costs and timeframe for the constructing the system.

8. Noting that only 70% of the total sewage would be treated by chemically enhanced primary treatment (CEPT) upon completion of Stage I of HATS and the long time gap between the commissioning of Stage I and the subsequent stages of HATS, a Member was concerned about the adverse impact caused by the sewage on the marine environment during the interim period. DS(B)/EFB said that it was estimated that the suspended solids loading, the biochemical oxygen demand loading and the E. coli loading in the Harbour would be reduced by 55%, 50% and 30% respectively after commissioning of HATS Stage I. The Administration fully recognized that more needed to be done to improve the marine environment and the proposed studies were to provide solutions to this problem.

9. A Member echoed the Chairman's view on inviting public comments on WQOs. He added that through the consultation process, the public would then gain a better understanding of the sewage problem and that they needed to pay a price to achieve those objectives.

10. SEF reiterated Government's commitment to provide proper sewage treatment for the Harbour. She pointed out that it would be important to build a community consensus on the way forward before we undertook further work on subsequent stages of HATS. She hoped the Council could support the Administration's proposal to undertake trials and studies as recommended by the IRP. With the Council's support, approval for the necessary funds would be sought from the Legislative Council (LegCo). SEF also took the opportunity to invite the Council to nominate four Members to join the monitoring group. She added that the three local members of the IRP had also been invited to sit on the monitoring group and the Council's representatives could report progress made to the Council.

11. The Chairman said that the Biological Aerated Filters (BAF) technology was new to Hong Kong and agreed with the Government that trials should be undertaken to test its effectiveness in treating saline sewage in Hong Kong.

12. A Member said that the Green Power supported the Administration's funding request for the proposed trials and studies. In the interest of time, he urged the Administration to work on other parts of the HATS in parallel with the trials and studies, and plan for contingency should it prove that the IRP recommendations were not suitable for Hong Kong. Another two Members said that their organisations (i.e. the Friend of the Earth and Conservancy Association respectively) also supported the Administration's proposal to undertake trials and studies as recommended by the IRP.

13. A Member wondered to what extent was Hong Kong lagging behind other countries with regard to sewage treatment. He said that the time and money invested in HATS would only solve part of the water quality problem in Hong Kong waters. He considered that the Government should adopt a holistic approach to address the water pollution problem in Hong Kong. In response, DS(B)/EFB took New York City as a comparison and said that about 80% of the total sewage in New York was treated by at least primary treatment. In Hong Kong, about 70% of total sewage would be treated by CEPT or secondary treatment after completion of HATS Stage I. In terms of sewage treatment level, Hong Kong was not lagging behind other developed cities. However, the fact that the population density in Hong Kong was four times that of New York complicated the problem. Hong Kong had been investing very heavily in sewage infrastructure in the past 10 years. The Government had indeed spent twice the amount invested in HATS Stage I in sewage facilities outside the HATS catchment area. Tremendous efforts had been put in clearing up the sewerage infrastructure like removing expedient connections which discharged domestic sewage through storm drains. Apart from HATS, over HK$5 billion was earmarked for sewage programme (e.g. the upgrading of the sewage treatment system in Shatin and North Lantau) over the next five years.

14. A Member also supported the Administration's proposals for the trials and studies and setting up a monitoring group.

15. A Member expressed his support for the proposed trials and studies. He envisaged that the task of public education in this case would be immensely difficult. Unless a sense of urgency to alleviate the water pollution problem could be created in the community in the same manner as the air quality issue, the Administration might have difficulties in securing funding approval from the LegCo for the trials/studies. He also urged the Administration to keep repeating the message about the importance of treating sewage and the sense of urgency to the public in the next two years when the studies and trials were being conducted or else the sewage problem might become a backburner issue.

16. In response to Members' questions, DDEP said that the IRP noted that the CEPT plant on Stonecutters Island was the most efficient plant of its type in the world, and also came to the conclusion that the water quality of the Harbour would be significantly improved after commissioning of HATS Stage I. He said that in formulating the requirements for the trials and studies, the Administration would bear in mind how they could achieve early improvements. DS(B)/EFB supplemented that apart from funding for trials and studies, EPD would step up its efforts in promoting public awareness in collection, treatment, and disposal of sewage and the need to improve water quality at the Harbour.

17. A Member said that the Federation of Hong Kong Industries welcomed the Administration's expeditious actions in cleaning up the Harbour. He also added that Hong Kong should keep in touch with the Mainland as factories in the Mainland, including many that were owned by Hong Kong businessmen, had been discharging sewage and the latter could have an impact on our water quality as well.

18. A Member felt that the Council had a responsibility to make a strong case to support the Administration's proposal. The Chairman said that he would clearly express the Council's support for the Administration at the press briefing and encouraged Members to convey the message to LegCo Members as far as possible.

19. A Member said that since the Council was well represented by green groups and trade organizations, the Council's explicit support for the Government's proposed trials/studies should be of help to the Government when it approached the LegCo for funding for the trials/studies. The Chairman suggested and Members agreed that the Chairman would write on behalf of the Council to the LegCo to express the Council's full support for the proposed trials and studies. Members noted that the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs would discuss this funding request on 3 April 2001.[Post-meeting note : The letter was sent to the LegCo on 30 March 2001.]

20. In response to a Member's question on LegCo the contingency plan in case BAF was proved not suitable for Hong Kong, DS(B)/EFB said that HATS Stages III & IV could still provide a system to collect sewage from the rest of the Hong Kong Island for CEPT treatment at the Stonecutters Island. If necessary, a separate tertiary treatment plant could be built at the reserved site at Lamma Island to treat the effluent discharged from the Stonecutters Island. However, under such circumstances, a tunnel would be required to convey sewage from the Stonecutters Island to Lamma Island. DDEP pointed out that the Administration was reasonably confident that the BAF would work in Hong Kong as proposed by the IRP. The key question was whether we could enhance the effectiveness of the BAF in treating saline sewage in Hong Kong to an extent whereby all the BAF plants could be accommodated within the limited space at the Stonecutters Island.

21. Two Members said that the sewage charging scheme and the HATS should be dealt with separately. One of the two Members suggested the Administration to work out the financial implications of the IRP's recommendations so as to present a full picture to LegCo.

22. A Member shared with Members the Singaporean experience in cleaning a river in 1977. He said it would be important to have the political will and support of the community to bring a project to fruition.

23. Having regard to Members' comments, the Chairman concluded that the Council gave unanimous support to the Administration's proposal and urged that the trials and studies be completed as soon as possible.

24. The Chairman asked whether the monitoring group would be responsible for issues other than the proposed trials and studies. A Member reckoned that the monitoring group should focus on IRP's recommendations only. DS(B)/EFB said that EPD and DSD were already looking at issues like sewage from storm drains and would report to the Council separately.


25. In reply to the Chairman's suggestion for the monitoring group to report to the Council on a quarterly basis, DS(B)/EFB undertook to produce a timetable for the monitoring group's work and to circulate it to Members for reference.

26. After some discussion, Prof. Peter Hills, Dr. Ho Kin-chung, Dr. Ng Cho-nam and Ms. Iris Tam accepted the Council's nomination to join the monitoring group.

Agenda Item 2 : Confirmation of minutes of the 82nd meeting held on 27 February 2001

27. The minutes were confirmed without amendments.

Agenda Item 3 : Matters Arising

Para. 3 : Information paper on the work of the Guangdong-Hong Kong Joint Working Group on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection


28. Members noted that a paper would be circulated to them shortly.

Para. 4 : Visit to Macau

29. Members noted that the visit would take place on 3 April 2001 and a total of eight Members including the Chairman would join the visit.

(Post meeting note : A total of six Members including the Chairman eventually joined the visit.)

Para. 6 : Report on the Hazard Assessment Study Update of the Ma Wan Channel


30. The Chairman informed Members that the report had just reached the Secretariat and a copy would be distributed to them.

Para. 20 : House rules of the EIA Subcommittee

31. The item would be discussed under Agenda Item 4.

Agenda Item 4 : Report of the EIA Subcommittee Meeting on 19 March 2001
(ACE Paper 10/2001)

32. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman presented the report of the last EIA Subcommittee meeting to the Council. He expressed gratitude for Prof. Hills's work in the Subcommittee in the last few years and welcomed Mr. Peter Lee and Prof. Hedley who just joined the Subcommittee. He said that the quorum of the Subcommittee would be half of the number of Subcommittee Members (i.e. five). Other Members of the Council would be welcomed to join Subcommittee meetings but they could not vote.

33. The Chairman asked and Members agreed to endorse the house rules of the Subcommittee as set out in the report.

34. In response to a Member's comment, the Chairman agreed that the word "Chairman" in the ACE Paper 10/2001 should be replaced by "chairman" as both the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the Subcommittee could convene meetings.

Agenda Item 5 : Annual Report of Waste Reduction Committee
(ACE Paper 9/2001)

35. The Chairman welcomed PAS(B)2/EFB, Atg. AD(WF)/EPD and PEPO(FP)/EPD to the meeting. The WRC Chairman summarized the work of the Waste Reduction Committee (WRC) in 2000. Atg. AD(WF)/EPD then briefed the meeting on the progress of the Waste Reduction Framework Plan (WRFP).

36. A Member said that in the past few years the Subcommittee found it contradictory that some EIA reports proposed disposing construction and demolition (C&D) materials at landfills because of a lack of demand for fill materials whereas other EIA reports proposed using dredged materials for reclamation due to a lack of supply of fill materials. To better utilize C&D materials and to prolong the life of landfills, that Member suggested the establishment of a public fill bank so as to better coordinate the supply of and demand for fill materials. The WRC Chairman said that the Public Fill Committee and the Construction Material Association were pursuing the idea of a public fill bank. He agreed with a Member that better co-operation between Government Departments/Bureaux would ensure a more efficient use of C&D materials and landfills. Atg. AD(WF)/EPD supplemented that at present, some C&D materials were stock-piled at public filling areas for use by reclamation projects.

37. A Member was surprised to learn that there was no landfill charging in Hong Kong. He informed the meeting that about 80% of wastes generated in Singapore were incinerated and the remaining 20% was disposed of at landfills in offshore islands. He said that they would need to build one refuse incineration plant every 5 to 6 years and one sanitary landfill the size of Sentosa Island if the current growth of refuse continues.

38. PAS(B)2/EFB said that in the past, much of the C&D materials were used for reclamation purpose. However, as the number of reclamation projects had dropped in recent years, there was a surplus of C&D materials. There was certainly no lack of fill materials for reclamation projects because a considerable amount had been piled up in Tuen Mun and Tseung Kwan O. As for the public fill bank, she said that the Administration was identifying suitable sites for storage of about 16 million tonnes of public fill materials.

39. In reply to the Chairman, PAS(B)/EFB said that the annual surplus of fill materials could fill up the Happy Valley Racecourse up to a height of about 18 storeys.

40. A Member thanked the WRC for its hard work in 2000. He referred to paragraph 6.2 of the Paper on "Keeping Hong Kong's Hotel Industry Competitive into the 21st Century : Environmental Management System for Hotels" and informed the meeting that at present 43 out of the 77 members of the Hong Kong Hotel Association were participating in the "Plastic Bottles Recycling Pilot Programme". About 2,600 pounds of plastic bottles per week or about 10,000 pounds per month were collected and recycled. That Member said that the Friends of the Earth was not totally against incineration but was concerned about the potential health hazard created by toxic emissions such as dioxin. He said that it was important for the emissions to comply with stringent international standards. Lastly, that Member asked whether the Administration would consider banning the use of foam lunch boxes in Hong Kong.

41. On the issue of incineration, a Member said that dioxin emission had also been a sensitive issue in Singapore. Waste incineration started in Singapore in 1978 and the fifth incineration plant was in the pipeline. He said that dioxin emission standards in countries such as the US, EU countries and Japan, were based on technical aspects rather than health standards. Japan was the only country which had dioxin standard for ambient air. In Singapore, the monitoring of ambient air did not show any dioxins.

42. The WRC Chairman agreed that there was no reason for delaying actions to tackle the waste problem. One of the purposes for WRC to report progress to the Council was to increase the transparency of the plans and the Administration's actions to reduce, recycle and reuse solid waste so that the community could take part.

43. PAS(B)2/EFB concurred with the WRC Chairman that communication with the public was crucial in implementing various waste reduction programmes. She said that the Administration had yet to decide the bulk waste reduction technology that should be adopted in Hong Kong. The Administration would soon present to the Council and the public a comprehensive waste management strategy. She looked forward to the Council's support for the strategy.

44. In response to a Member's question on banning foam lunch boxes, Atg. AD(WF)/EPD said that the Administration encouraged the community to use re-usable table-ware instead of disposable substitutes such as foam lunch boxes or their replacement products. In December 2000, EPD launched the "Testing Guideline on Degradability and Food Safety of Containers & Bags" which covered the degradability, food safety, and physical performance of various disposable products.

45. A Member commended WRC's work and made the following comments:-

   (a) the recycling industry had difficulties in finding suitable sites for its operations. As a result, companies in the industry had to either find a location in sub-urban areas or pay expensive rentals for sites in urban areas. He suggested that consideration be given to utilize old landfills as sites for recycling plants;
  (b) the recycling industry should be allowed space under fly-overs and refuse collection points for temporary storage of recyclables;
  (c) the Government should be more proactive in purchasing green products which were recycled locally; and
  (d) the Government should consider learning from Korea where waste was separated at source.

46. A Member noted from Table 3 in paragraph 5.3 of the ACE Paper that there were big differences in the rents for sites allocated to the recycling industry. She asked whether the Government could lower the rent because the trade indirectly helped reduce the amount of waste to be disposed of at landfills and thus the cost for disposal. As regards foam lunch boxes, she suggested that the Government should use TV commercials like the "No Plastic Bag, please" to promote the concept of avoiding disposable lunch boxes.

47. On that Member's point on rent, PEPO(FP)/EPD said that the rent was not set by the Government. The sites were rented through an open bidding system. The Chairman said that rental should not be the major criterion in deciding the award of a site to a recycling contractor. The WRC Chairman said that another way to assist the recycling trade was to provide strategic sites for the business at a longer-term tenancy.

48. PAS(B)2/EFB responded that short-term tenancy was only a stop-gap measure to meet the demand of the recycling trade. The Administration was looking for long-term solutions like making use of old landfills. To assist the trade, the Administration would promote waste separation at source so that more recyclables were collected for the trade. In addition, through the Environment and Conservation Fund, the Administration would provide funding support for the recycling industry to develop or experiment new technologies for waste treatment.

49. DS(B)/EFB emphasized that the major objective of WRFP should be to reduce waste generation in the first place, not just reducing the amount of waste to be disposed of at landfills. Recycling came next. A Member agreed with DS(B)/EFB and said that public education played an important role in waste reduction. He pointed out that the US made it mandatory for Government vehicles to use recycled oil and urged the Administration to consider taking further steps in that respect to set a good example for the public.

50. A Member agreed with DS(B)/EFB that the key priority should be on waste reduction. He also concurred with PAS(B)2/EFB that the recycling trade should benefit from collection and separation of recyclables. He asked whether it was possible to separate recyclables at refuse collection points. On the legislative aspect, that Member suggested the Administration consider following the practice in New York in requiring manufacturers to collect the recyclable part of their own products.

51. In response to that Member's first question, PAS(B)2/EFB said that the Administration was considering to place waste separation bins at the larger refuse collection points. Atg. AD(WF)/EPD supplemented that EPD was studying the feasibility of adopting a producer responsibility schemes for the recycling of special waste streams such as batteries and computers. EPD had already started liaising with mobile phone manufacturers for recycling of mobile phone batteries.

52. A Member was impressed by the progress of the "Waste Recycling Campaign in Housing Estates" but wondered why work had stopped between various phases of the Campaign. PAS(B)2/EFB explained that work on waste separation was actually an ongoing one in housing estates. The specified period in the report only indicated the duration of the competitions. She assured Members that the work would continue after Phase IV. She said that the Environmental Campaign Committee was working closely with the Housing Department in expanding the coverage of the Campaign and reinforcing education and publicity to maximize effectiveness. Atg. AD(WF)/EPD supplemented that instead of relying on campaigns, the Administration was looking for ways to influence the management of housing estates. An example would be to include in Deeds of Mutual Covenant terms that would require the management to carry out waste separation.

53. The Chairman was glad that the Housing Authority (HA) was co-operative in dealing with domestic waste and asked whether they had taken any initiatives in C&D materials as the HA was a major housing supplier in Hong Kong. Atg. AD(WF)/EPD replied that the Housing Department had taken steps to reduce C&D materials generation at the early stage of construction. Waste generated from renovation by the residents was a separate issue. The WRC Chairman reminded Members that the Secretariat had circulated some time ago a paper setting out the actions taken on this aspect.

54. A Member supported mandatory measures for waste management. He asked whether vehicle oil recycling facility was available in Hong Kong and if so, whether the business was viable. Another Member responded that his company was the only oil recycler in Hong Kong. The business was viable largely because there was law governing the disposal of waste oil.

55. A Member said that in the process of arousing public awareness in reducing waste, care should be taken to protect the image of Hong Kong so as to avoid adverse impact on the tourism industry. She suggested alerting the public by using information like the amount of money literally buried daily in landfills. About public fill bank, that Member recalled that the concept was recommended in a consultancy study a few years ago and would like to know how the recommendations in that study had been taken forward. She agreed with a Member on the effect of TV commercial and suggested that the concept of waste reduction could go parallel with the Litter Bug commercial to strengthen the message. Lastly, she hoped to see better co-operation between different Government Departments so that programmes in land allocation, taxation, landfill charge and education could work to the best effect.

56. A Member said that it would be useful if a waste indicator similar to that of the Air Pollution Index could be posted up to arouse public concern on this problem. Following on that Member's point, the Chairman asked how much it would cost the taxpayers for waste disposal. In reply, Atg. AD(WF)/EPD said that the daily cost was about 2.25 million (assuming 18,000 tonnes of waste was disposed of at landfills every day, and the cost would be about HK$125 per tonne for waste treatment in landfills excluding transportation cost).

57. The WRC Chairman said that the urgent task of WRFP was to prolong the life of landfills. However, within the next 15 years, unless there was a major change in the public mentality to reduce waste generation, the waste disposal strategy might not be sustainable. The Chairman thanked the WRC for its work and encouraged them to continue the momentum.

Agenda Item 6 : Any Other Business

Tentative items for discussion at next meeting

58. Members noted that two items would be discussed at the next meeting, namely "Study on South East New Territories Development Strategy Review - Draft Recommended Development Strategy" and "Addition of Noise Control Designated Areas". Agenda Item 7 : Date of Next Meeting59. The next meeting was scheduled for 23 April 2001.


ACE Secretariat
April 2001


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