In Hong Kong, 43% of the city’s daily municipal solid waste (MSW) waste is food waste – ultra wet food waste (water content is 75% in mall waste and 90% in wet market food waste). The Government insists on burning this water-waste with an incinerator on a scenic island, but the feedstock does not have the required calorific value required for combustion. Previous tests at composting Hong Kong food waste failed miserably due to the low quality and water content, and the test samples were actually landfilled since they were neither saleable nor exportable.
If there could be a mandatory separation for food waste here, placed in a Green Bin (see below example on Santa Monica), then collected Free of Charge by Government contractors, delivered to Transfer stations and garburated into a puree, the food waste can be then poured into the sewage system network. The CEPT system at Stonecutters island alone (there are ten other smaller treatment plants also) can handle 2.45million m3 of sewage per day by 2016. For reference, the current daily load is under 1.3million m3, so 3,600m3 of ultra wet pureed food waste per day would be a negligible load increase. This idea came from a senior technical engineer working for a company that happens to be Government consultants and it is totally viable.
The removal of food waste contamination would leave dry MSW that could form a new recycling industry here – without this, you cannot sort MSW already mixed and contaminated by food waste. Our Government-provided recycling figures are inflated. They pad the figures using imported trash from Europe and America that was being transferred through HKG to China – this only came to light when China erected ‘Operation Green Fence’, leaving many incoming containers stuck here.
The current lack of waste pre-sort requirements leaves food waste to create methane (23 times more dangerous greenhouse gas then CO2) and hydrogen sulphide when buried in landfills. On top of that, trucks drip foul stinking water (again, because of the high water content in local food waste) onto the roads whilst delivering to landfills. Flies and rats abound. The above food waste option, aside from being a much cleaner option, will create sensible recycling industries here. Tuen Mun can become ‘Green Tuen Mun’ instead of the territory’s toilet.
Landfills: viable recyclables are currently being dumped in landfills since they are tainted with food waste and there is no viable local recycling industry. A major portion of the landfilling is construction waste. Whilst 18,000 tonnes of construction waste is hived off to CEDD daily for shipping to China the remaining 3,000 odd tonnes of unusable construction waste is landfilled.
In Belgium a joint venture between APP UK and Group Machiels is building a plasma gasification plant at the Houtalen Hechteren landfill – this will reverse-mine the landfill back to its pristine state, the recovered metals will be sold, electricity will be generated from the plasma syngas hydrogen and sold to the local grid and the plasma’d soil will form Plasmarok, fused at 6,000 Degrees C into an inert saleable road aggregate. The Government was offered a FREE 150,000 tonnes per annum trial plasma plant and rejected it, as it went outside of their incineration blinkers. This could have been operational now at the Tseung Kwan O landfill.
Incineration requires increased oxygen, frequently the addition of low-grade coal or oil to obtain combustion of wet matter and burns at 850 degrees C. If the burn temperature drops due to wet feedstock dioxins can and do form. Dioxins also form mostly on startup and shutdown of the burner. There are numerous peer reviewed studies of cancers, orofacial child defects, and deaths in proximity to incinerators. These are facts. The Government consistently refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of this salient health matter. The proposed stack height at Shek Kwu Chau will affect the whole of Hong Kong with wind borne toxic pollutants and heavy metal emissions carried on PM1 and PM2.5 particulates that escapes bag house covers and other equipment. Meanwhile, 30% of what is burned by weight remains as toxic bottom ash and fly ash. This needs landfilling, hence the need to extend landfills instead of doing away with landfills. Government officials will start applying to Legco for funding to build mega islands in the sea for new ash lagoons, when Hong Kong is hit annually by tropical storms. Super typhoons like Haiyan are always ready to hit and destroy empty safety promises of protective structures and punish the city with a blanket of toxic ash.
With current judicial reviews and appeals, the mal-thought incinerator option would not appear until 2023, by which time the rest of the world will be using plasma gasifiers for years already. Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia, countries that Hong Kong citizens don’t usually consider superior in terms of progress, are moving ahead with plasma projects; Solena Fuels Inc already signed with Pertamina Indonesia for an MSW feedstock plasma plant.
In a plasma gasification plant, plasma gasifiers operate with an initial fluidised bed at 1,200 – 1,500 degrees Centigrade that vaporises anything – construction waste, MSW, rock, metal – into its molecular gaseous state. The dirty syngas is then passed through multiple plasma arcs operating at the temperature of the sun, above 6,000 degrees Centigrade, which destroy any dioxins or other contaminants, leaving only pure hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide is captured and the hydrogen is used to drive turbines to produce electricity. The plant emissions from the hydrogen are steam. There is no ash to landfill.
Alternative processes can add a Fischer-Tropsch backend process that takes the syngas and creates carbon neutral bio jetfuel, bio naptha, bio diesel or bio marine fuel as in the Solena Fuels system. Such systems are used in large-scale plasma plants that are being built in numerous countries, with some in the UK close to completion. The BA / Solena Fuels plant with a capacity of 1550 MSW tonnes per day and produces bio jetfuel is underway in London. (BA has ordered 3 more plants, one more in UK and two in Spain.) Lufthansa / Solena plant is underway in east Germany near the Polish border. A total of 14 airlines have signed agreements with Solena for projects, including Qantas, SAS, Alitalia, Fedex, Alaskan, American, Canadian Air etc. Maersk is seeking planning permission for a bio marine fuel plant with Solena in New Jersey. The US plant in Gilroy, California will supply the US based airlines.
Westinghouse Alter NRG has operated MSW / RDF plasma plants in Japan since 2001. Their Utashinai plant closed recently due to the loss of feedstock contracts to operate the plant. The Government and recently an alliance of Govt friendly academics are misleading the public by implying that the Utashinai plant closed due to technical problems, when the real reason is the lack of MSW feedstock. We challenged the academics, CS Poon from HK Poly U and Irene Lo from HKUST, to produce the evidence of Utashinai failure or retract their statements at an open public meeting in Tuen Mun this afternoon. They rejected the invites and any ‘evidence’ they might have is of course unavailable, still lying in the EPD’s imagination. (Coincidentally, Elvis Au – the prime mover of the incinerator idea from EPD, CS Poon, Irene Lo, and other EPD engineers are all on the Environment Committee of the HK Institution of Engineers, from whence the Alliance of academics has sprung.)
Westinghouse torches will power the Teeside Airproducts plasma plant in UK. The 1,000 MSW tonnes per day plant will open within the next few months. A second plant is also being built by Airproducts next to the first and will supply the UK Government Cabinet office with an 84 million pounds savings on its future energy bills.
Building an incinerator will cost 20 billion, landfill extensions 10 billion, operational cost per year 300 million + landfill management costs, new ash lagoons in sea 15 billion – treatment costs of illnesses caused by the emissions ??$ billion
Plasma gasifier – cost ZERO – funded by the design build operate company – operation cost funded by operator – emissions hydrogen/steam
Coming back to the Green Bin collection of food waste. This has been done successfully in numerous cities in California, especially with Santa Monica, where incidentally the undersecretary of environment, Christine Loh, has a residence. There is no excuse as to why Hong Kong should not take up the idea. By removing the food waste problem and initiating proper local recycling businesses, we obviate the need for an incinerator and the need to extend landfills.
The Government Environment minister previously stated unwisely that they have no Plan B – it’s time for a plan ‘G’ (‘G’ for Green Bin).
8 Jan 2014