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:-
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;
the recycling industry should be allowed space under fly-overs and refuse collection points for temporary storage of recyclables;
the Government should be more proactive in purchasing green products which were recycled locally; and
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.