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LCQ9: Collection and recycling of food waste
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Siu-hung and a reply by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, in the Legislative Council today (July 13):
     Food waste makes up a significant amount of the municipal solid waste, and over half of it comes from domestic households, with the disposal of domestic food waste being on a rising trend in recent years. On the other hand, the Government has launched through the Recycling Fund the initiative Solicitation Theme: Supporting Residential Buildings in Adopting Smart Bins Technology in Food Waste Collection and Recycling (the Solicitation Theme) to assist the industry in enhancing its recycling capacity and efficiency. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the implementation situation of the Solicitation Theme;
(2) given that some members of the industry have relayed that, as the authorities have been slow in the progress of vetting and approving the applications made under the Solicitation Theme, the industry is unable to dovetail with the Government's efforts in waste reduction and recycling in a timely manner, whether the authorities have reviewed the reasons for such slow progress, and the improvement measures in place to expedite such vetting and approval work;
(3) given that the $100 million earmarked for the Solicitation Theme is only enough for subsidising 40 applications (calculated on the basis of the maximum amount of subsidy of $2.5 million for each application), whether the authorities have plans to increase the funding for the Solicitation Theme; and
(4) given that according to the Code of Practice on Separating, Collecting and Transporting Food Waste to Organic Resources Recovery Centre Phase 1, Phase 1 of the Centre can only intake food waste containing less than 20 per cent by weight of inert materials (such as food packaging materials and oversized bones), whether the authorities have plans to lift such a restriction, with a view to increasing the food waste treatment capacity of Phase 1 of the Centre?
     My reply to Hon Chan's question is as follows:
(1) to (3) Smart bins technology for food waste collection has become more mature in recent years. It can enhance both the collection efficiency and quantities for recyclers while keeping the collection process in a hygienic manner. The Recycling Fund launched a scheme on Supporting Residential Buildings in Adopting Smart Bins Technology in Food Waste Collection and Recycling (the Scheme) in late 2020 and earmarked $100 million, aimed to encourage and facilitate domestic food waste collection and recycling in residential buildings; to enhance the collection efficiency of food waste by using smart bins collection; to raise awareness of residents for food waste recycling; and to offer residents first-hand experience of the food waste recycling process so that they can continue recycling food waste after the completion of the Scheme. The data collected would also help analyse the effectiveness of domestic food waste recycling.
     Eligible applicants include residents' organisations or the property management companies of private housing and subsidised sale flats. To encourage residential communities to maintain the habit of food waste collection continuously, the minimum duration of a project is 24 months (including six months of preparation works), and the maximum is 48 months. To ensure relevant applications are cost-effective, applicants must fulfill relevant vetting criteria, including support by at least 200 participating households and the operating costs and administrative overheads should be within the funding limits etc. Details of the vetting criteria are set out in the Guidance Note of the Scheme that is available in the Recycling Fund website. All eligible applications will be submitted to the Recycling Fund Advisory Committee (RFAC) for approval as soon as possible once all required materials are provided by the applicants.
     As at June 2022, the Recycling Fund has received eight eligible applications. Five of the applications have been approved, involving a total funding amount of $6.6 million, which will benefit some 3 000 households. The other three applications, which have fulfilled the vetting criteria, will be submitted to the RFAC for vetting in July. For other applications under processing, the application requirements cannot be met, for example, insufficient number of households supporting the projects or the information provided are incomplete. The Secretariat of the Recycling Fund has been following up with them proactively with a view to assisting them to fulfill the application requirements with additional materials, and then subsequently arranging for approval by the RFAC. To prevent prolonged holding of applications, we will consider setting a benchmark of six months for submitting all applications to the RFAC for consideration according to the merits of individual applications, and then notify the applicants of the results. Regarding the reserved funding, the Recycling Fund will duly review the funding of the Scheme based on the its implementation progress in order to optimise the use of resources to support the overall food waste recycling strategy by the Government.
(4) Food Waste is any waste, including raw, cooked, edible and inedible parts generated during food production, distribution, storage, meal preparation or consumption of meals. Inert materials such as plastic packaging materials, oversized bones, clam shells and oyster shells are not recyclable food waste. The Organic Resources Recovery Centre Phase 1 (O‧PARK1) adopts a biological process of anaerobic digestion and composting to convert food waste into biogas as renewable energy and compost.
     With reference to the Mainland and international practices and in consideration of the actual situation in Hong Kong, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) requests that the above inert materials should be separated from food waste at source as far as practicable before delivering to O‧PARK1, to ensure an efficient downstream recycling process.
     Considering the constraints in space and manual labour cost in local eateries to fully achieve food waste source separation, O‧PARK1 has installed a screening system to remove the inert materials not exceeding 20 per cent in the delivered food waste. Further relaxing the limit of inert material content in food waste will impact the routine operation of O‧PARK1, such as reduction of biogas generation caused by the inert materials in anaerobic digesters, deterioration of compost quality due to the presence of plastic residues in the downstream process, and pipeline blockage by grit under extreme cases which could cause suspension of facility operation.
     Through continuous education and promotion, the EPD has been assisting the participating establishments in the commercial and industrial sectors and housing estates to follow the Code of Practice on Separating, Collecting and Transporting Food Waste to Organic Resources Recovery Centre Phase 1, in familiarising themselves with food waste source separation practice so as to reduce the inert materials in food waste.
Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:45
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