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LCQ18: Waste management strategies

     Following is a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, in the Legislative Council meeting today (April 25):


     Regarding the waste management strategies for Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective costs per tonne for waste treatment through the three strategic landfills and incineration in the past five years, broken down by the procedures of waste collection, transportation, transfer and final disposal; further, the Government's estimation of the respective relevant costs after the extension of the three strategic landfills as planned; as well as the respective relevant costs it estimated for waste treatment at the planned Shek Kwu Chau incinerator;

(b) according to relevant information or the Government's estimation, of the cost incurred in the past five years for reducing each tonne of waste through the strategy of waste reduction at source, together with a breakdown by the various measures related to this strategy (e.g. publicity, education and recovery programmes, etc.);

(c) of the Government's estimation of the cost per tonne for waste treatment through the strategy of anaerobic digestion and composting at the planned Organic Waste Treatment Facilities (OWTFs) in  Siu Ho Wan and Sha Ling, together with a breakdown by various procedures of waste collection, transportation, transfer and final disposal; the operation mode of OWTFs; besides these two OWTFs, whether the authorities have planned to identify other sites for the construction of additional OWTFs, with a view to increasing the quantity of organic and food waste treated; if they have, of the details and work schedule; if not, the reasons for that; apart from developing public OWTFs, whether the authorities have any policy in place to support the development of private waste treatment centres or facilities; if they have, of the details and timetable of implementation; if not, the reasons for that;

(d) of the latest progress, details and timetable of the respective legislative exercises relating to the full implementation of the Product Responsibility Schemes (PRS) in respect of six types of products, namely, vehicle tyres, plastic shopping bags, electrical and electronic equipment, packaging materials, beverage containers and rechargeable batteries; whether it has conducted impact assessment on the full implementation of PRS in respect of these six types of products; if so, of the assessment details for each type of products; if not, the reasons for that; the expected changes in the respective quantity of waste generated in Hong Kong after the full implementation of PRS in respect of the various types of products;

(e) apart from raising the target of waste recovery rate to 55% by 2015, whether the Government has set any clear and feasible target for waste management strategies including waste reduction at source, recycling, waste separation and recovery as well as addressing the waste problem at the output end, etc., and whether it has assessed the optimal and minimal outcome which can be attained through various waste management strategies; if it has, set out the outcome by strategy and type of waste (e.g. domestic waste, commercial waste, municipal solid waste and overall construction waste, etc.); further, in setting such targets and implementing the waste management strategies, whether the Government compares the respective advantages and weaknesses between implementing the relevant measures as a package and introducing them one by one; if so, of the details and the respective outcome that can be attained through different combinations of measures; if not, the reasons for that; and

(f) whether it had compiled statistics in the past five years on the annual quantity of waste produced by travellers visiting Hong Kong; if it had, of the quantity of waste produced by those visiting Hong Kong under the Individual Visit Scheme, the percentage of such waste in the annual quantity of waste produced by travellers visiting Hong Kong, and the impact of which on waste management in Hong Kong?


     Hong Kong's waste management problem is exacerbated by the exhaustion of the three existing landfills in 2014, 2016 and 2018.  In response to this Council's views in late 2010 regarding the extension of the Southeast New Territories Landfill, we explained to this Council and the wider community in January 2011 that in order to effectively tackle our waste problem, there is a need to pursue a three-pronged waste management strategy including (i) strengthened actions to reduce wastes at source and to promote waste recycling, (ii) introduction of modern technologies to upgrade our waste treatment capability, and (iii) timely extension of landfills.  This approach is in line with the experience of many other modern cities across the globe in pursuing sustainable waste management.  We also justified in details vide our submission for the special meeting of the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs (EAP) on April 20 that no modern city in the world could resolve its waste problem solely through waste reduction and recovery.  Hong Kong needs to implement the three-pronged strategy in a timely manner and only by this could we tackle our waste problem effectively.

     Our reply to the question is as follows:

(a) Hong Kong does not operate any incineration facilities for treating municipal solid waste (MSW), and we rely principally on landfills in disposing of our waste.  Since the 2007/08 financial year, the per-tonne cost of individual handling procedures for landfilling is:

Collection and Transportation     Between $180-$224
Transfer                          Between $192-$208
Landfill Disposal                 Between $142-$168

     On the whole, regardless of the disposal method (either through existing landfills or their extensions and Integrated Waste Management Facilities (IWMF) Phase 1 that may be developed in future), the cost for the collection, transportation and transfer of waste will depend on the relevant collection/transportation routes and modes of transfer, as well as the prevailing market conditions.

     As for disposal, the disposal cost at the landfill extensions is expected to be comparable to that of the existing facilities.  As for the IWMF Phase 1, we estimate that on the basis of money-of-the-day prices, the construction cost of the proposed project is about $14,960.1 million (i.e. equivalent to $11,383.0 million at September 2011 prices), and the annual recurrent cost is about $353 million.

(b) Reducing waste at source and promoting recovery have always been our priorities under the three-pronged waste management strategy; there are multiple initiatives underway for this purpose.  The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is making continuous efforts to work with relevant government departments, district councils, community groups, property management companies, green groups, social services organisations, schools as well as public/private organisations in promoting source separation of waste and encouraging community participation in waste reduction, recovery and recycling in Hong Kong.  In addition, following the successful implementation of the first phase, we are now preparing to extend the Environmental Levy Scheme on Plastic Shopping Bags (the Levy Scheme) to cover all retailers, and at the same time we are preparing to introduce a new mandatory Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS) on waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE).  We have also recently completed the public consultation on the introduction of municipal solid waste charging (MSW) into Hong Kong.  We shall consider the outcome of the consultation and would as soon as practicable draw up the proposed way forward on the basis of the analysis of the feedback received.

     As a result of wide-ranging publicity and educational campaigns as well as relevant waste reduction initiatives, the recovery rate and recovery quantity of MSW in Hong Kong have been increasing steadily in recent years.  The overall recovery rate has increased from 45% in 2006 to 52% in 2010, while the total recovery quantity has increased from 2.84 million tonnes in 2006 to 3.6 million tonnes in 2010.  The Government has also committed to raising the recovery rate to 55% by 2015 through stepping up of publicity and promotional efforts, extending the community recycling network and taking forward the relevant legislation.  Yet as the effectiveness of these relevant measures is not entirely correlated with the resource input, their benefits could not be reflected in terms of "the cost incurred for reducing each tonne of waste" in a straightforward manner.

(c) Regarding the cost for the collection, transportation and transfer for the Organic Waste Treatment Facilities (OWTF), as mentioned in part (a) of the reply, regardless of the disposal method, the cost for the collection, transportation and transfer of waste will be affected by the relevant collection/transportation routes and modes of transfer, as well as the prevailing market conditions.  As the tender work for the first phase of OWTF suggests that the costs of the facility might be significantly higher than originally envisaged ($489 million at money-of-the-day prices estimated in 2010), we are now reviewing the situation and there is no data on the disposal cost of the two facilities at this stage.

     As for the mode of operation, Siu Ho Wan in North Lantau has been selected as the site for the first phase of OWTF, which is expected to have a daily treatment capacity of 200 tonnes of food waste.  Sha Ling in North District has been selected as the site for the second phase with a treatment capacity of about 300 tonnes per day.  The first phase of OWTF will adopt the biological treatment technologies of anaerobic digestion and composting to turn the source-separated industrial and commercial food waste into biogases and compost products.  The electricity generated by the biogases can supply power for use by the OWTF and the surplus power can also be exported to the power grid.  For both phases of OWTF, the works contracts will be tendered to engage a contractor to design, build and operate the facility.  In addition, in early 2011, the Government started the search for suitable sites throughout Hong Kong to construct more OWTF (including regional facilities).  Subject to the result of the site search exercise, we will further examine the feasibility and conduct detailed analysis.  On the other hand, organic waste recycling is one of the recycling operations that we accept for the purpose of the tendering in leasing out the EcoPark.  The trade may wish to keep in view of the EcoPark's leasing information, and we are willing to provide technical assistance.

(d) The Government has expedited the implementation of the PRS on the basis of the action agenda announced in January 2011.  Our current priority is to implement the full extension of the Levy Scheme, and to introduce the mandatory PRS for WEEE.  Having regard to the findings of the respective public consultation exercises, we briefed the EAP at its meeting of November 28, 2011 on the proposed way forward of the two mandatory PRSs.  We are now preparing the legislative proposals for their early introduction into and scrutiny by the LegCo.

     We have assessed the impact of the above two mandatory PRSs.  Since the implementation of its first phase, the Levy Scheme has successfully fostered the "Bring Your Own Bag" habit in the community, thus achieving the objective of waste reduction.  The disposal of plastic shopping bags (PSBs) originated from those registered retail outlets subject to regulation has reduced sharply by about 90%.  In planning for the second phase, we have already taken into account the impact assessment and have recommended that in extending the Levy Scheme, we switch to the approach whereby the PSB charge could be retained by retailers.  With this approach, small and medium enterprises could be freed from the administrative burden and compliance cost in relation to the present levy remitting requirement.  Regarding the PRS for WEEE, we had engaged a consultant and conducted business impact assessments, of which the findings and recommendations have been taken into account as we mapped out the way forward for this PRS.  We will continue to engage the relevant trades in drawing up the operational details while we prepare the legislative proposals.

     In addition, the EPD has been supporting the relevant trades in implementing voluntary PRSs for compact fluorescent lamps and fluorescent tubes, computers, rechargeable batteries and glass bottles.  Each of these schemes has achieved certain results since inception:

(i) compact fluorescent lamps and fluorescent tubes: about 1.4 million compact fluorescent lamps and tubes have been recovered since the recovery scheme was launched in March 2008;

(ii) computers: about 76,000 items of computer products have been recovered since the recovery scheme was launched in January 2008;  

(iii) rechargeable batteries: 317 tonnes of rechargeable batteries have been recovered since the recovery scheme was launched in April 2005; and   

(iv) glass bottles: over 3,200 tonnes of waste glass have been recovered since November 2008 through a number of recovery schemes.

     We will regularly monitor the situation of waste generation, and will consider the feasibility in introducing new mandatory PRSs for other products.

(e) The Government implements a three-pronged waste management strategy and the three components of this strategy are correlated, intertwined and mutually indispensable in seeking to solve the waste management problem of Hong Kong.  On the whole, reducing waste at source and promoting recovery are the first priorities in the three-pronged approach of our waste management strategy.  As far as MSW is concerned, we have set clear objectives in the light of the actual situation in Hong Kong.  We aim to raise the recovery rate of MSW to 55% by 2015 through stepping up publicity and promotional effort on waste reduction and recycling.  In parallel, we have expedited the preparation of legislative proposals for PRSs.  We are also analysing the feedback collected during the public consultation for MSW charging with a view to mapping out the way forward.  That said, no advanced cities in the world can solve their waste problem solely by waste reduction and recovery.  We have pointed out in our submission for the special EAP meeting on April 20 that, even if MSW charging were implemented in Hong Kong to achieve the same magnitude of waste reduction as in the Taipei City and Seoul, in case IMWF Phase 1 is not commissioned as planned, there would still be about 9,000 tonnes of waste to be landfilled by 2018 on a daily basis.  Accordingly, there is still a pressing need for us to pursue the timely development of suitable waste treatment facilities in addition to the implementation of various waste reduction initiatives.  While the current administration could not complete the procedures for seeking the LegCo's funding approval in respect of the introduction of IWMF Phase 1 and the extension of the three strategic landfills, we will continue to carry out our existing waste reduction initiatives.

(f) We gauge information relating to the generation, recovery and disposal of MSW in Hong Kong every year mainly through analysing the records of waste reception at landfills, surveys of the operational data of the recycling industry and other relevant import/export data.  As we cannot trace the specific sources of waste in our analysis and survey, we do not have the statistics on waste specifically generated by inbound visitors.

Ends/Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:56


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