CHAPTER 4
Tacking The Problem - The Strategy
Schematic Diagram

64. We must translate the proposed waste management strategy into action. All the best strategies in the world cannot achieve the desired results unless the implementation is decisive and timely. Therefore, the public needs to know how the strategy and policy tools relate to them, and under what timeframe these will come into force. This chapter explains how the measures will be executed in relation to our three major targets.

 

  Our Targets
65. This is a good time to remind ourselves of the main waste management targets for the coming decade, particularly how they relate to the waste hierarchy approach described in the previous chapter and how the policy tools and support measures are to be applied:
66. These targets are tangible reductions in MSW and tell us exactly where we need to focus our efforts. With the proposed policy tools and the concerted efforts of our entire community, we are confident that these laudable targets are achievable.

Diagram of 'Well sign-posted, Hong Kong's MSW Strategy'
Well sign-posted, Hong Kong's MSW Strategy
Text Alternative for Diagram of 'Well sign-posted, Hong Kong's MSW Strategy'


  The Strategy
67. The Government's strategy is based on the three target areas of avoidance and minimisation; reuse, recovery and recycling; and bulk reduction and disposal.Within each target area is a series of proposed initiatives, each a goal in itself that in turn contributes to the achievement of the main target.
68. The driving force of the strategy comes from the policy tools of waste charging, PRSs and landfill disposal bans. These are supported by public education and partnership, and legislation.
Diagram of The Waste hierarchy starts with avoidance and minimisation
The Waste hierarchy starts with avoidance and minimisation
Text Alternative for Diagram of The Waste hierarchy starts with avoidance and minimisation

 

  Waste Avoidance and Minimisation
69. Discouraging wasteful habits is the first step. Waste charging is the key policy tool in waste avoidance and minimisation. By putting a price on generating waste, we can induce change in people's wasteful habits and behaviour.
70. What is a suitable means of imposing waste charges? While there are several methods of doing so, we consider a variable charge by the amount of waste more appropriate for Hong Kong. The charge will be imposed only on mixed waste, which is the remainder after reusable and recyclable materials are taken out. A variable charging system can encourage both the reduction of MSW and the recycling of useful materials whereas a flat fee can induce neither. Such a fee is also in line with the principles set out by the SDC and the views expressed by stakeholders4 on MSW management.
 
4 Council for Sustainable Development, Making Choices for Our Future: Report on the Engagement Process for a First Sustainable Development Strategy, (February 2005).

 

71. An MSW charging system of a variable rate can operate in different modes such as weight-based, frequency-based or volume-based. Volume-based systems that involve bags, bins or stickers are gaining popularity overseas and can serve as a good reference for Hong Kong. The detailed design of a variable-rate system will of course need to take into account Hong Kong's unique characteristics and the multi-occupant high rise living environment. A method being considered, amongst others, is to use pre-paid waste disposal bags.
72. Pre-paid waste disposal bags will come in different sizes. The prices of the bags should be set at a rate high enough to recover the cost of treatment and encourage a change in behaviour. These pre-paid bags will be the only ones accepted by waste collectors. As a major initiative that has territory-wide implications, the public will be fully consulted on the specific proposal we draw up. Subject to public consultation, legislation specifying how MSW will be charged and suitable sanctions on non-compliance will be introduced into the Legislative Council. To allow sufficient time for the public to build consensus, we envisage that the MSW Charging Bill can be introduced in 2007.

73.

Waste avoidance is achieved in specific waste types through PRSs and other measures. Working in partnership with businesses enables the Government to establish the conditions for waste avoidance through re-designing products or reducing excessive consumption where possible. Some examples are listed below:

Plastic bags - Plastic bags are non-biodegradable and their excessive consumption burdens our landfills and wastes resources that can have alternative uses. About 1,000 tonnes of plastic bags end up in landfills each day, accounting for 11% of MSW disposed of in Hong Kong. We encourage the separation of plastic bags for recycling through the territory-wide separation of domestic waste at source programme. Schemes have been run by major retail chains to encourage the public to use reusable bags instead of plastic shopping bags. Through a PRS-based charge that will be administered by retailers, the Government aims to drastically cut back the number of bags used.
Expanded-polystyrene lunchboxes - Expanded-polystyrene boxes form a highly visible component of Hong Kong's waste. In collaboration with green groups, the Government has organized a series of forums starting with primary and secondary schools to use fewer disposable lunchboxes. Addressing the issue through schools is perhaps one of the best ways to reduce solid waste.
Packaging - The Government will encourage producers to reduce packaging where it is not necessary. Campaigns such as the 'Eco-friendly packaged mooncakes' and the 'Mooncake tin can recovery' have marked success in raising community awareness of the importance of avoiding excessive packaging. PRS levies will be introduced subject to consultation with the trade.

 

  Reuse, recovery and recycling
74. As individuals take responsibility for their waste by reusing, recovering or recycling it, they will be contributing to both the targets of this strategy and a sustainable Hong Kong in the long term. The charge on MSW will provide an economic incentive for households and businesses to separate recyclable materials from the waste stream. PRSs will further support the materials to be recycled.
75. How do PRSs work in practice? PRSs assign responsibilities to appropriate parties to collect, recycle and properly dispose of used products that do not have a ready market. A typical PRS will involve some of the following elements:
imposing take-back responsibility for recovering and recycling end-of-life products;
restricting free distribution of certain types of products to reduce consumption;
imposing a mandatory deposit system for certain types of products to facilitate recovery;
imposing a levy or fee for recovering and recycling certain types of end-of-life products; or
imposing restrictions on some components in certain products to facilitate recycling.
Diagram of The three Rs (reuse, recovery and recycling) provide the central grounding in MSW
The three Rs (reuse, recovery and recycling) provide the central grounding in MSW
Text Alternative for Diagram of The three Rs (reuse, recovery and recycling) provide the central grounding in MSW

 

76. Hong Kong already has some PRS experience. There are pilot schemes underway to determine the viability of recovering materials from several products, so producers can take on the responsibility for recycling. These schemes are for electrical and electronic equipment, vehicle tyres, rechargeable batteries, packaging materials and beverage containers. A pilot centre will be set up at the Kowloon Bay Transfer Station by 2006 to gain more experience on the PRSs for electrical and electronic equipment.
77. Based on the results of these schemes, the Government intends to introduce mandatory PRSs on specific products that require particular attention. Given the diverse nature of different products and the materials that are involved, each will require a custom-designed scheme. Each scheme will also need to have a collection and recycling component. For example, in the pilot PRS for rechargeable batteries, participating battery producers and importers have made contributions to an operating fund. The trade manages the fund and operates a scheme to recover used batteries for recycling. The Government will explore various options for implementing the mandatory PRSs.
78. Working with business is a key element in the success of PRSs and ultimately in the success of achieving the waste reduction targets. By virtue of its central role in our free market economy, business cannot help but be involved in every aspect of a product's life - from cradle to grave, or more appropriately, from the designer's mind to the end of a product's intended use.
79. Consumers as decision-makers deciding which products to use must play their part as well. Businesses are best placed to design a PRS which best suits their needs and encourages consumers to change their behaviour, recycle more, and more importantly, to provide a steady source of materials for the recycling industry.
80. With the imposition of MSW charges, consumers will be further encouraged to "think waste". Given the choice between two products, one with more recycling opportunities or encased in less packaging than the other, it should be easy for the consumers to make a right choice. This illustrates how decisions made at one end of a product's life cycle can have an effect at the other.
81. Legislation will be introduced into the Legislative Council in 2006 to provide the framework for PRSs, with product-specific measures introduced through subsidiary legislation subsequently. As Hong Kong is no longer a major manufacturing base, PRSs in Hong Kong will emphasize the shared responsibility of all parties along the supply chain, from importers and distributors to retailers and consumers. The framework legislation, now named the Product Eco-responsibility Bill (PER Bill), will authorise the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) as the enforcement authority to ensure compliance with the product-specific regulations.
82. The regulatory measures will consider who are the main responsible parties in the supply chain, so that the PRSs will be able to work effectively to achieve targets for waste avoidance and minimisation as well as reuse, recovery and recycling.

Table 5. PRS - Implementation programme for 
                  some of the products
Table 5. PRS - Implementation programme for some of the products
Text Alternative for Table 5. PRS - Implementation programme for some of the products

 

83. The PRS initiatives will need to be supported by a network of regional and district recycling centres. These centres will provide temporary sites for the end-of-life products separated from the main waste stream before they are taken to recycling plants or other treatment outlets. The centres are also expected to make collecting separated MSW more efficient. The Government is also exploring the setting up of public spaces dedicated to recycling activities such as idle corners of land below flyovers.
84. We may impose landfill disposal bans on certain end-of-life products. Consumers or commercial users will be required to separate from their main MSW streams the banned materials or products, for example vehicle tyres and bulky electrical appliances, and prepare them for proper recycling or treatment outlets. In this way, the flow of recyclable materials from commercial and industrial operations to the waste recycling industry can be further strengthened. Landfill disposal bans will come into effect after the concerned PRS is introduced.

Photograph of Waste separation facilities can be provided on each floor of the building Waste separation facilities can be provided on each floor of the building
Text Alternative of the photogragh Waste separation facilities can be provided on each floor of the building.

 

  Source Separation of Waste - Starting the Process
85. The success of reuse, recovery and recycling depends on the sorting of waste at source. There is a distinction between 'clean' sorted waste (like paper, plastics, and metals) and 'dirty' waste (contaminated materials, such as food packaging, used tissues and soiled diapers). Dirty waste is commonly known as mixed waste and has little recycling value. On the other hand, clean sorted waste holds high value for the recycling industry.
86. Source separation can be achieved in Hong Kong by encouraging and assisting property management companies to provide waste separation facilities on each building floor, where feasible, and broadening the range of recyclables to be recovered. Initial results of a pilot scheme run at the Eastern District housing estates to facilitate the separation of domestic waste by residents at source were encouraging. Some of the 13 estates more than doubled the quantity of recovered recyclables by actively encouraging the participation of the community across all ages.
87. The Government is partnering with various parties to expand this programme territory-wide and to focus on domestic waste. The property management sector is a key partner in managing MSW from buildings and housing estates. The Government will conduct outreach programmes for large property management companies and housing estates and schools in collaboration with bodies like the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies Limited and the Property Management Partnership Liaison Group. The Government will continue to organise seminars and visits for property managers to learn about environmental management. The scheme will certainly help implement green practices, including separation of domestic waste at source in buildings and housing estates. Property management companies acting on behalf of the residents' organizations of the private housing estates and residential buildings can apply for funding from the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) to partially subsidize the set-up cost of waste separation facilities/equipment on each floor of the building. The Housing Department has also been implementing source separation at the public rental housing (PRH) estates.

88. Our aim is to invite all households to separate waste at source. Our targets are:
to increase the domestic waste recovery rate from 14% in 2004 to 20% in 2007 and 26% in 2012. The aim is for housing estates to achieve a 50% increase in recovered quantities after the first year of implementation;
to have 80% of the population in Hong Kong taking part by 2010. The aim is to gradually increase the number of estates under the programme to 180, 700, 1,140 and 1,360 by the end of 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010 respectively; and
to gradually increase the number of PRH estates under the programme from 30 PRH estates in 2005 to all PRH estates by 2012.
89. Publicity and education are important to support waste sorting and separation. In parallel with the introduction of separation facilities in housing estates, we will conduct territory-wide campaigns to educate residents on waste separation. For instance, a territory-wide publicity and education programme to be jointly launched by the ECC and the Government will emphasize the need and importance of source separation of domestic waste. The campaign will be promoted through publicity such as posters and labels distributed to housing estates and announcements on the electronic media.
90. A diagram showing EPD website on a computer monitor.A website dedicated to source separation has been set up and competitions among housing estates will be organised to give the estates and property management companies incentives to participate and provide regular recovery data. A comprehensive guidebook provides technical advice on how best to separate and where to place the separated materials on residential floors, together with explanations on the buildings and fire safety-related ordinances.
91. A recycling programme that provides recycling bins has also been running in schools since 2000 to enhance students' understanding of the importance of conserving resources and separating waste. The increase in the volume of recyclables collected over the years proves the success of the programme in turning students' awareness into action.
92. Each participating estate can have the flexibility to adopt the best mode of waste separation and recovery to suit its particular constraints. For example, for buildings with enough space, MSW separation facilities for different recyclables will be put in refuse rooms or other designated waste collection locations on each floor. In buildings without adequate space, mixed recyclables will be collected in designated containers or areas. Some estates may encourage residents to take out recyclables separately on specified days of the week. In this way, recyclables can be separated within each estate and sold direct to recyclers. Management companies or cleansing contractors will be able to pass on to residents the benefits of the extra revenue.
93. The Building (Refuse Storage and Material Recovery Chambers and Refuse Chutes) Regulations require new buildings to provide a material recovery chamber on the ground floor of each building. In view of the possible problems encountered in implementing the source separation programme due to the lack of space on each floor of buildings, consideration will be given to introducing legislative amendments to include a mandatory requirement to provide a refuse storage and material recovery room on each floor of new residential buildings to facilitate material recovery activities.

 

  Supporting the Recycling Industry - the "CIRCULAR ECONOMY"
94. The "circular economy" provides a sustainable solution to the waste problems. In a "circular economy", as much as possible of the waste generated as a result of economic activities is returned to the consumption loop. Reuse, recovery and recycling, as integral elements in the waste hierarchy, encourage repeated uses of resources or materials.
95. Waste recycling is a key element in our MSW strategy. The Government's intention is to promote the local recycling industry and jump-start a "circular economy". The Government has been formulating a comprehensive policy to support the recycling industry. This includes allocating suitable land resources, encouraging research and development, introducing environmental legislation and providing effective support measures. The Government will:
improve the collection network through programmes on separation of waste at source;
adopt PRSs as a major measure to enhance the recovery of recyclable materials;
lease suitable STT sites exclusively to waste recyclers;
establish an EcoPark to provide long-term land for the environmental and recycling business;
adopt a green procurement policy to enhance market demand for recycled products;
continue to support and encourage research and development of new recycling technologies through the ECF, the Innovation and Technology Fund, and funds for small and medium enterprises; and
continue to organise educational programmes at the community level to increase the public awareness of waste recycling.

Picture of Tomorrow's 'circular economy'
Tomorrow's "circular economy" as it emerges from today's planners
Text Alternative of the picture Tomorrow's 'circular economy'

 

96. The EcoPark will act as a valuable resource for the development of advanced, value-added environmental industries. The Government has pledged to build a 20-hectare EcoPark in Tuen Mun Area 38 with a marine frontage of over 450 m. The EcoPark will provide long-term land for both the recycling and the environmental industries with a view to encouraging investment in advanced and cost-effective technologies. The Government will fund the construction cost of infrastructure so that an affordable rent can be offered to the waste recycling and environmental industries. Priority will be given to those industries which can help to achieve the Government's MSW management objectives. Phase I of the EcoPark will be available for occupation by the end of 2006.
97. A green procurement policy facilitates the development of a "circular economy". Recycling cannot be sustained without market outlets for recycled products. The Government is therefore taking the lead to adopt a green procurement policy and is regularly reviewing the specifications for bulk purchase items so as to incorporate environmentally friendly features where practicable. For example, the Government is taking the lead to encourage the use of recycled aggregate and geo-construction materials made of waste rubber tyres in its construction works. The Government will also encourage local corporations to give priority to green products when deciding on what to buy.

 

  Changing attitudes through education
98. A key driver to waste avoidance and minimisation is public education and partnership. Environmental education plays an important role in inducing behavioural change and gaining public support. Publicity and education on waste avoidance and reduction, as well as separation and recycling, are to be stepped up to reflect the high priority of MSW management in public policy.
99. Building on our well-established foundation in public education and engagement, a territory-wide publicity and education campaign will be jointly launched by the ECC and the Government in late 2005 to spread the waste management message to the public. A series of activities and education programmes intended for people from all walks of life will place emphasis on turning awareness into real action and empowering them to be agents of change in achieving a more sustainable lifestyle.
100. The most effective environmental campaigns reach people's daily lives and enable them to be responsible for protecting the environment. It is also essential to help the community build capacity so that it can sustain its participation. With this in mind, the Government will:
provide more extensive outreach services through the Mobile Environmental Resource Centre, Green Desk and roving exhibitions at public places like shopping malls and housing estates to answer enquiries from the public;
continue to mobilise local community groups to organise environmental activities at the district level to raise awareness of and harness public participation in MSW management; and
encourage community groups to integrate environmental elements into their community programmes.
101. We believe that by partnering community groups, substantial progress can be made to change people's behaviour and obtain the public's support for our key policy initiatives on MSW management.
102. Activities for students will be developed to complement the curriculum on MSW management. Some examples of our school education activities include the School Environmental Award Scheme cum Student Environmental Protection Ambassador Scheme (SEAS cum SEPAS), the Hong Kong Green Pre-School and Green School Award (HKGSA), and other education programmes:
In 2004, the ECC signed up some 12 000 Student Environmental Protection Ambassadors from 750 schools. Students are trained to be green leaders through the SEAS cum SEPAS, which help to organise green activities on campus. Under the 'Waste avoidance and reduction' theme, ambassadors from primary and secondary schools are being trained to promote waste avoidance and reduction at schools during 2005-06;
The HKGSA encourages pre-schools and schools to draw up comprehensive environmental management plans and promote green practices, including waste reduction among staff and students on and off campus; and
The Government will continue to conduct other education programmes on waste reduction and recovery as an on-going effort, including interactive workshops and student visits to waste management facilities such as landfills. These programmes will be designed to help students to better understand the waste issues and mobilise their participation in waste reduction and recycling activities.
103. To make the school curriculum work, the Government is assisting teachers by producing ready-made teaching materials on topics relating to waste reduction and recovery. Some of these materials are linked to the Hong Kong secondary school syllabus. Separate education kits have also been produced for primary schools and pre-schools.

 

  Bulk Reduction and Disposal
104. A landfill disposal ban on biodegradable MSW will facilitate a sustainable waste management strategy. Solely relying on landfills for waste disposal is clearly not sustainable. Our existing landfills are running out of capacity, and we face increasing difficulty in identifying suitable sites for new landfills. They cost $6 billion to construct, $432 million to operate in 2004 and another $1.2 billion to maintain after their closure. We must conserve the landfill capacity only for the disposal of unavoidable and treated waste.

Diagram of Bulk reduction breathes new life into prematurely aged landfills
Bulk reduction breathes new life into prematurely aged landfills
Text Alternative for Diagram of Bulk reduction breathes new life into prematurely aged landfills

 

105. Landfill disposal bans are employed overseas to divert biodegradable waste from landfills, which help to prolong their lives and reduce the long-term liability of leachate and LFG generated from the landfills. In Hong Kong's case, as appropriate technologies such as composting or anaerobic digestion come on line, landfill disposal bans will, in the longer term, be extended to cover biodegradable waste, such as food waste.
106. We still need treatment technologies to further reduce the volume of waste before final disposal. Several technologies are being considered. These were selected from submissions made by local and overseas companies that were invited in 2002 to propose waste treatment technologies for the Integrated Waste Management Facilities (IWMF). An Advisory Group on Waste Management Facilities (AG), made up of non-officials, including academics and professionals, has been set up to assist and advise the Government in selecting the most appropriate technologies based on environmental, technological, social, economical as well as consumer considerations.

Diagram of The integrated waste management facilities show the way.
The Integrated Waste Management Facilities show the way
Text Alternative for The integrated waste management facilities show the way.

 
5 Some mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) plants process the non-recyclable materials into refuse-derived-fuel (RDF). RDF consists of the combustible materials in MSW, for example paper and plastic, which are separated from the non-combustible fraction of mixed MSW. They are then shredded and pelletized to facilitate handling, transportation and storage. Based on overseas experience, the potential outlets of RDF(mainly power plants, paper mills, steel plants, cement plants) are severely limited, and this equally applies to Hong Kong.

 

107. The AG has recommended a multi-technology approach so that the most suitable technology may be applied to deal with different waste streams of the mixed unavoidable waste. The approach builds on existing efforts to promote waste reduction and recovery.
108. Through MSW separation at source, recyclable materials will be recovered for recycling. Biodegradable materials such as food waste from commercial and industrial establishments can be separately collected at source for biological treatment such as composting and anaerobic digestion. Composting requires stringent control on the composting conditions and on the emissions to reduce odour problem. The volume of biodegradable waste which could be treated by biological methods also depends on the available outlets for the by-products, which are very limited in Hong Kong since we do not have much agricultural activities, and exporting compost to the Mainland is not practicable due to the strict import control on the quality of compost produced from MSW. We estimate that Hong Kong is able to take up soil conditioners produced from about 500 tonnes of biodegradable waste per day.
109. The remaining mixed MSW will then be treated by mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) and incineration. The MBT process mainly recovers recyclable materials and a biodegradable fraction from mixed waste. A series of mechanical operations take out recyclable materials such as metals and glass. The biodegradable fraction is treated and stabilised by a biological process such as composting or anaerobic digestion before being applied to land. While it can only reduce the waste volume by about 50%, MBT requires 2-3 times more land than other technologies. Experience in Europe suggests that 50 - 60% of the residues will still need to be disposed of at landfills if MBT technology alone is adopted. Hence, MBT cannot be the sole method used in Hong Kong to treat mixed MSW.
110. The portion of the mixed waste not treated by MBT will be incinerated. Incineration is a technologically well-proven method adopted by many advanced countries in Europe and Asia. Through incineration, waste is combusted to reduce its volume and hazardous properties. Either heat or electricity can be generated in the process. Modern incinerators adopt advanced process control measures to optimise the combustion process. Such measures include controlled burning at temperatures typically over 850°C, long residence time and high turbulence to ensure complete combustion of MSW to destroy all organic pollutants and prevent the production of new pollutants.
111. Incinerators can meet the most stringent international emission standards by using advanced gas-cleaning and pollution abatement equipment such as fabric filters, scrubbers and activated carbon-powder injection systems. Incineration is considered the most cost-effective technology of the options being considered to divert waste from the landfills. Furthermore, incinerators need far less land than biological treatment options.

Chart of How Hong Kong and other cities manage their MSW
How Hong Kong and other cities manage their MSW
Text Alternative for Chart of How Hong Kong and other cities manage their MSW

 

112. While it is estimated that Hong Kong may be able to support an MBT plant up to the capacity of 1,000 tonnes of waste per day, the remaining 5,700 tonnes will be treated by incineration. The limitations over the capacity of MBT would be its land requirement, cost-effectiveness and availability of outlets for its products. This capacity will also have a knock-on effect over the required capacity of the incinerator. The exact mix of these capacities will be subject to further in-depth studies. After the various measures on avoidance, reuse and recycling are introduced, the IWMF will be established in two phases. The phased approach will allow us to put in place a suitably sized plant in the first phase to achieve bulk reduction, hence extending the lives of the landfills. Depending on progress of the waste reduction measures and the effectiveness in reducing the volume of unavoidable waste, we can confirm the need and the size of the remaining components of the IWMF before they are built and commissioned in the second phase. We aim to commission the IWMF in mid 2010s subject to the implementation of the "polluter-pays" principle.
113. By the end of 2004, Hong Kong had a remaining landfill capacity of around 90 million tonnes. It is estimated that our landfills will last only 6 to 10 years if MSW continues to grow at the current trend. All the measures outlined above will make it possible to extend their lives, yet we will still have to take the residues from the IWMF and explore options for new landfill space. A study in January 2003 looked into the feasibility of extending the three strategic landfills and identified new potential landfill sites. The study showed that it will cost $8.3 billion to extend the lives of the current landfills from between 5 and 15 years. Commissioning of these extensions will be required in the early 2010s to mid-2010s.
114. The reality is that we will continue to rely on landfills as our final means of disposal. More studies will be conducted to consider new landfills but it is important to note that, based on our focus on waste avoidance and recovery and recycling, we now have bought enough time for longer term strategic planning and hopefully reduced the need for future facilities.

 

  Summary
115.

The Government's strategy is based on the three target areas of avoidance and minimisation; reuse, recovery and recycling; and bulk reduction and disposal. Within each target area is a series of planned initiatives, each a goal in itself that in turn contributes to the achievement of the target. The driving force of the strategy comes from the policy tools of waste charging, PRSs and landfill disposal bans. These are supported by public education and partnership, and legislation. This strategy will allow us to achieve our targets, as shown below in the projected results.

Diagram of Our future rolled out.

Our future rolled out

Text Alternative for Diagram of Our future rolled out.


back to topback to top