At present, most of Hong Kong's food waste is disposed of at landfills together with other municipal solid waste. In 2012, there were some 9,278 tonnes of MSW disposed of at landfills each day. Of these, about 3,337 tonnes (36%) were food waste, constituting the largest MSW category being landfilled. Among the food waste disposed of daily, some 809 tonnes were generated from commercial and industrial (C&I) sources such as restaurants, hotels, wet markets, food production and processing industries. In recent years, the amount of food waste arising from the C&I sectors has increased steadily: from less than 400 tonnes per day in 2002 to over 800 tonnes per day in 2012.
The current practice of disposing of biodegradable food waste at landfills is not sustainable and is environmentally undesirable as it depletes the limited landfill space, creates odour nuisance, generates leachate and landfill gases that require further mitigation measures to deal with, and squanders the useful organic contents.
Food Waste Management Strategy
Reducing food waste disposal at landfills is an important part of the Government’s plan for waste management and the Administration has adopted a multi-pronged approach to tackle Hong Kong’s food waste problem, with main focus on avoidance of food waste generation and reduction at source.
Food waste management hierarchy
In the “Hong Kong : Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022” (the Blueprint) unveiled by the Environment Bureau in May 2013, the Administration maps out a comprehensive strategy, targets, policies and action plans for waste management for the coming 10 years with a view to tackling the waste crisis in Hong Kong. In February 2014, the Environment Bureau unveiled “A Food Waste & Yard Waste Plan for Hong Kong 2014-2022” (the Plan), which is a companion document to the Blueprint that maps out a comprehensive strategy, targets, policies and action plans for the management of food waste and yard waste in the coming years. The Plan outlines the Administration’s target of reducing food waste disposal to landfills by 40% in 2022 and maps out four strategies to tackle food waste, namely reduction at source, reuse and donation, recyclable collection, and turning food waste into energy.
On food waste reduction, we believe that education and publicity are very important. Over the past years, the Government has initiated and supported various programmes and educational campaigns to promote food waste reduction, source separation and recycling in different sectors and districts. Some of our recent actions include:
To further strengthen the promotion of food waste reduction, the Government set up the Food Wise Hong Kong Steering Committee in December 2012 to implement the Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign. It is a territory-wide food waste reduction campaign that aims to promote public awareness of food waste problems in Hong Kong and instill behavioural changes in various sectors of the community, including commercial and industrial establishments and at the individual and household levels, with a view to avoiding and reducing food waste generation. The Campaign was officially launched on 18 May 2013.
Notwithstanding the efforts for food waste avoidance and reduction, suitable and adequate food waste treatment and recycling facilities are necessary to treat and recycle food waste that cannot be avoided and can be separated at source. The Government is planning to develop regional modern large-scale organic resources recovery centre (ORRC) in phases to turn source separated food waste into useful resources by advanced biological treatment technologies.
Network of Organic Resources Recovery Centre
We have reviewed many types of technology for treating food waste. As Hong Kong has a large need for energy, our policy is to treat the city’s collected food waste to produce renewable energy using anaerobic digestion as the core technology. We plan to build a network of ORRC, to enable food waste to be transported quickly from population centres to the facilities that are not too far away and turned into useful resources, thereby reducing potential nuisance arising from the transportation of food waste. We have set out in the Plan that Hong Kong, among other things, needs to build a network of around five to six ORRC with a total recycling capacity of about 1,300 to 1,500 tonnes per day. This network is essential for achieving the target of reduction.
In the meantime, we will commence a detailed consultancy study on the appropriate means, mechanism and mode of source-separated food waste collection and delivery for both the C&I and domestic sectors in Hong Kong. We will develop a practical territory food waste collection and delivery plan to cope with the commissioning of ORRC network.
Pilot Composting Plant
Hong Kong has little experience in source separating food waste or treating the source-separated food waste in an appreciable quantity. To prepare for the development of large-scale modern ORRC and acquire local experience on collection and biological treatment of source separated food waste, the EPD commissioned a pilot biodegradable waste treatment plant (the Pilot Composting Plant) at the Kowloon Bay Recycling Centre in 2008. The Pilot composting Plant has a treatment capacity of about 500 tonnes per year and about 50 tonnes of compost can be produced for use as fertilizer or soil conditioner in planting, landscaping and agriculture. The Pilot Composting Plant has completed its mission and was decommissioning in October 2018.
Kowloon Bay Pilot Composting Plant
Organic Resources Recovery Centre
Given the substantial amount of food waste generation and better space provisions, food waste from the C&I establishments could be more easily and readily separated at source for subsequent collection and transport for treatment. On the other hand, food wastes from households in Hong Kong are currently mixed with other waste and source separating food waste generated from a large number of households for collection would not be easy because of the very limited household living space in Hong Kong and the hygienic concerns related to food waste collection. Hence we expect the C&I sector would be the first to use the first two ORRCs. By the time the third ORRC comes on stream, there will be greater demand for household food waste to be recycled, as more and more households get used to separating waste. Adjustments may be needed on how best to distribute C&I and domestic food waste for recycling at these facilities.
The first phase of ORRC (ORRC Phase 1) is located at Siu Ho Wan of North Lantau to treat source-separated food waste from the C&I sectors at a capacity of 200 tonnes per day. The design and construction is commenced in December 2014 and it is in full operation in July 2018.
Organic Resources Recovery Centre Phase 1
Commercial and Industrial (C&I) Sector interested in implementing food waste source separation, collection and delivery to ORRC1, please click here for details.
For the second phase of ORRC (ORRC Phase 2) at Sha Ling of the North District with a daily capacity of 300 tonnes, we have completed the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study and will commence the preparation works for tendering. We also plan to commence the feasibility and EIA studies for the ORRC Phase 3 in Shek Kong of Yuen Long.
Organic Resources Recovery Centre Phase 2
The Government will soon commence the site search for development of the remaining 2 to 3 regional ORRC, and study the feasibility and requirements of more ORRC. We maintain an open and proactive attitude in searching for further ORRC sites. The number and scale of further ORRC would depend on the progress of waste reduction in Hong Kong.
Apart from constructing new facilities, the Government is exploring the use of existing sewage treatment facilities for food waste/sewage sludge anaerobic co-digestion as an additional part of the network of organic resources recovery facilities to help raise Hong Kong's food waste treatment capability. A pilot trial with a maximum daily capacity of 50 tonnes food waste will be run at the Tai Po Sewage Treatment Works to confirm the technical feasibility and installation requirements.