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July 7th, 2009:

Blog: Is Hong Kong eco-trendy or eco-serious?


Miranda Leitsinger, CNN

HONG KONG, China (CNN) — A plastic bag levy, a total indoor smoking ban and skyscrapers shutting the lights off? There has been a flurry of environmentally-friendly activity in Hong Kong over the past few weeks.

Piles of plastic bags are a common sight on street corners in Hong Kong.

Tuesday marked the beginning of the environmental levy on plastic bags. For every plastic bag a customer takes at certain retail outlets, they will be charged 50 Hong Kong cents (US$0.06). Green signs have sprouted up at these outlets to inform shoppers of the new fee.

The previous week, a full ban on indoor smoking in public places came into effect. Bars, nightclubs, massage businesses and mahjong-tin kau (Chinese dominoes) premises that had earlier received an extended deferment of the ban are now forced to implement it.

Piles of plastic bags are a common sight on street corners in Hong Kong.

And in late June, more than 3,500 buildings and groups in the southern Chinese enclave turned out the lights on a skyline known around the world for its nighttime illumination.

What is going on here? Is Hong Kong, a city that is often shrouded in smog, getting eco-serious or eco-trendy? What do you think? Sound Off below

In a city where piles of plastic bags on street corners are not uncommon — even being accosted by them while frolicking in the sea here is not unusual — and smoking goes hand in hand with a beer or Cosmopolitan martini, I was pleasantly surprised by the moves.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Yok Chow said earlier this year that tobacco “remains the major attributable factor to the top five leading causes of death in Hong Kong” and claims some 6,900 lives here yearly.

A stroll on Monday through one of the city’s popular nighttime and commercial neighborhoods not only revealed the usual plastic bag mess, but also smokers puffing away in bars.

At some bars, management set up ashtrays the size of kitchen garbage cans on the sidewalks for their customers to smoke one step outside the venue.

When I spoke with staff at three different places, one said she was unsure about the requirements of the new law, another said smoking just outside the venue was fine (as long as it didn’t bother anyone else) and a third told me I could actually smoke inside the bar by open windows.

I spoke with the head of the Tobacco Control Office, which has 85 officers on the team who perform unannounced inspections and look into complaints. He told me that venues were not fined for violations — but violators could be hit with fines of up to $5,000 HK dollars ($645).

“The venue managers themselves do not have any accountability or punishment that will be imposed on them, even if they do not enforce the law. In a way, it’s a bit different from overseas legislation,” Lam said. “What we are working on is a kind of a collaboration — on one hand we try to engage the venue managers to support us, on the other hand we want to emphasize the role of education and publicity.”

The efforts are promising, but I fear old habits die hard and wonder about Hong Kong’s commitment to improving the environment for its residents.

As for me, I will carry a cloth bag for groceries and the Tobacco Control hotline number in my mobile phone to do my part to help make this city eco-serious.

Hazardous Wastes – Best Practices for Co-Processing and Management in Cement Kilns

Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate

Umbrella Project 7 is intended to promote the use of hazardous and other industrial wastes as a reliable alternate, renewable source of energy for clinker production in cement kilns. Umbrella Project 7 will demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of co-firing various types of hazardous and other industrial wastes safely. The goal of the Umbrella Project is to provide cement kilns a reliable, affordable supply of renewable energy, as well to serve as a clean, safe destruction technology for waste management in Asia Pacific Partnership member countries. Commercially available technologies will be demonstrated at cement plants in India and Australia.

Detail on:

Government snubbing efforts by company to utilise solid waste


In the article (“Nurturing growth”, June 22), Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen talked about “changing the relationship between government, business and the market”. This certainly seems to be the time to adjust the balance between these relationships.

Given that finances are tight, the government should encourage more private enterprises to participate in the development of Hong Kong.

From my recent experience with the Environmental Protection Department, the message I received is that private sector involvement in public services, such as waste management, is not encouraged even if it can demonstrate substantial savings and environmental benefits.

Green Island’s eco-co-combustion system is an environmentally friendly and cost-efficient waste management solution. Sludge and municipal solid waste would be used as a refuse-derived fuel at our cement plant. The system boasts a number of benefits. For the treatment of sludge and solid waste, it presents a significant upfront cost saving of more than HK$6 billion compared to the department’s proposal. With sludge and solid waste being used to replace at least 40 per cent of coal used in the cement plant, there will be a net improvement in total emissions. In addition, there will be no residue ash as it would be used as clinker in cement manufacturing.

Our proposal for sludge treatment has already been denied, while for the treatment of the sold waste, we understand the department’s upcoming tenders have restricted its proposed integrated waste management facility to either Tsang Tsui or Shek Kwu Chau, so our proposal cannot be considered.

The eco-co-combustion model represents a good example of how the private sector can participate in Hong Kong’s environmental development. Instead, we are being prevented from competing. We hope the department will take heed of Mr Tsang’s words and consider private participation and not just stick to the conventional government-owned design-build-operate model.

Don Johnston, executive director, Green Island Cement (Holdings)