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February 24th, 2015:

Harmful ozone levels in Hong Kong up 35pc in last 15 years

Concentrations of ozone in the city’s air have increased by a third in the last 15 years, highlighting yet again the severity in regional air pollution, according to government data.

Between 1999 and last year, concentrations of ambient ozone at the city’s general air quality monitoring stations rose by 35 per cent, despite levels of all other pollutants showing decreases.

Preliminary data released by the Environmental Protection Department today recorded ozone concentrations at general stations increasing by 7 per cent from 43 micrograms per cubic metre to 46 micrograms per cubic metre last year.

“This once again shows more needs to be done in terms of cooperation with the region,” said Mok Kwai-cheung, the department’s assistant director of environmental protection.

Ozone is a major component of photochemical smog that reduces visibility and threatens human health when exposure is prolonged and high.

The pollutant is formed by a reaction between volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) generated from other combustion sources. The dirty, orange smog enveloping views of the harbour on heavily polluted days is created when these two pollutants react with sunlight.

Hong Kong has set a target to reduce NOx by 20 to 30 per cent and VOCs by 15 per cent by 2020 in accordance with a regional air quality management plan between the city and Guangdong.

A cross-border study funded by the department last year found that nearly half of the ambient VOC levels in the Pearl River Delta region were traffic-related, with petrol exhaust the biggest single contributor.

The report suggested that reducing traffic in the delta region by half could be one of the most effective means of combatting regional smog. But cutting VOC emissions from traffic by half could achieve the same effect.
Source URL (modified on Feb 24th 2015, 6:52pm):

Time to put our waste to better use

Doug Woodring says by fixing the problem of our mounting waste – by treating it as a resource – we can create opportunities to address other challenges such as climate change

Some 8 million tonnes of plastic waste makes its way into our oceans every year, according to recent reports. That is the same as placing five garbage bags of trash on every foot of the coastline on our planet. And that is just plastic.

To put the World Bank’s estimates of global municipal solid waste production into perspective, it would be like covering all of California in waste to a depth of almost 10 metres each year. And the scary fact is that some predict this figure will double within 15 years, as population growth and consumption take their toll on our resources.

So, it is worth asking, is our waste footprint a bigger concern than climate change? In the scheme of long-term impact, it’s hard to say, but what is not hard to say is that most of our communities lack the waste management and recycling infrastructure to keep waste from creating problems in our societies and environment.

Unlike climate change, which affects certain locations at certain times, waste affects billions of people on a daily basis, and it is right under our noses. But because it is not “sexy” in terms of the technology and remediation options that exist for harnessing these resources, and because the waste treatment modus operandi in many countries is controlled by the “old guard”, it has proved hard to close the gap between our consumption “outflows”, and our ability to channel that material for job creation, innovation, clean water, better tourism and improved societies.

In some ways, waste is the “magic” point from which we could correct some of our bigger environmental ills. Why? Because trash is something everyone can see, feel, touch and also do something about. It is not like carbon, which children can’t see, and adults can’t judge.

With plastic in particular, the hardest of the municipal solid waste streams to create economies of scale for – due to the wide variety of types and colours – people know that it should not be in the natural environment. Worse, many times, a brand name is associated with that trash. Of course, the companies did not dump it, but to an increasingly aware public, the brand name carries a lot of negative impact for those trying to make their communities a better place.

All the onus cannot be put on the public to put their waste in the right place. In many places, the education system fails to provide the base of knowledge needed for proper recycling and waste management, nor is there the capacity to deal with many materials we discard.

The result is a direct threat to our water systems, which many argue is the next hot topic on the global list of challenges to be addressed.

On the ocean side of the equation, more than 1 billion people rely on protein from the sea each day, yet many are fishing in coastal zones affected by pollution. Trash that is not dealt with can lead to problems of disease, reduced tourism, agricultural impact and flooding.

All these problems can be solved with the right systems. When these systems start to be improved, it is also possible to engage the local community on other, more complex issues, such as those related to climate change.

A good analogy is the “broken window” theory for poor neighbourhoods, in which maintaining and monitoring our communities, while fixing all the broken windows, helps create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness – in this case, preventing more trash being dumped. If you can sort out the waste issues, you create a sense of pride in the area and its waters, with a greater chance that people will recycle and dispose of waste responsibly.

Creating economies of scale for plastic waste, with the help of the companies involved in distributing it in the first place, will lead to many positive results.

This means creating bring-back programmes, using reverse supply chains to recapture some of the material sold, the use of recycled content in products and being part of the “design-for-recycling” economy. This will create a strong social uplift, which is needed in many parts of the world.

Waste is a “forgotten” resource, and by dismissing the value that different waste streams can create, we end up inadvertently adding to climate change ills. Organic waste produces methane, which is 23 times more harmful to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. There are all kinds of technologies to make use of organic waste, but when it is mixed with plastic, the aggregated waste (plastics and organics) becomes virtually worthless, unless there is a hi-tech sorting facility or incineration is used for energy recovery.

Not everyone has such technology, however, so by seeing plastic as a valuable usable raw material, and one that can be recycled while creating jobs along the way, with the help of companies, governments and other communal institutions, we can channel these resources back into use.

This will help keep the organic material in a more usable, pure form, allowing composting or gasification for energy and avoiding methane production from rotting waste.

Virtually everyone wins in this cycle, except maybe the “old guard” who are afraid of change. There are no natural enemies for waste, but we have not changed our collective mindsets to harness the opportunities for improvement. If we do, we can move to the next level of climate-related challenges.

Doug Woodring is founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance/Plastic Disclosure Project
Source URL (modified on Feb 24th 2015, 5:31pm):

Democrats hope for $5b recycling fund

January 15, 2014

Qi Luo

The Democratic Party is hoping that today’s policy address will include the setting up of a HK$5 billion fund to help promote recycling.

Democratic lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said 60 percent of respondents in a poll conducted by the party recently supported such a move.

“We want competition in the recycling industry, not monopoly,” he added. “The number of recycling agents should not be limited.”

Wu said that sections of the Public Cleansing and Prevention of Nuisances Regulation needed to be amended along with arrangements covering contractors for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to allow cleaners to collect materials that can be recycled.

The survey also showed that 61 percent of 859 respondents supported waste charges being levied according to volume.

“We believe this is the best way to push residents to change their habits,” Wu said.

He went on to urge officials to look at charging individual flats for garbage rather than a building.

Backing that plea, Wu said 58 percent of respondents said charging for waste would make them more active in recycling. And nearly 60 percent said a reward for recycling would help.

Another survey by the party showed 53 percent of public housing residents back charges for waste.

Waste charge futile without separation of rubbish at source

23 February, 2015

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing’s proposed waste charging scheme is another example of our overpaid principal officials cherry-picking an idea without addressing the root cause of the problem (“Bill on charging for waste ‘likely to be aggressive'”, February 18).

They visited countries to examine incinerators, but not their recycling effort. They look at Taipei and other countries to examine waste charging, but not how they create the infrastructure to complement waste charging.

Taiwan introduced a pay scheme for garbage only after implementing a comprehensive waste management plan, including aggressive waste separation at source and recycling.

Just charging people for waste means added costs without addressing the root problem: the absence of waste separation at source so that recyclable waste and waste delivered to landfills and incinerator are sorted separately. All the waste that is collected after waste charging is implemented still ends up in the landfills in the same black plastic bag as in today’s arrangement.

A waste charging system does not end with the collection of fees. Complementary measures must be implemented at the same time. Before official implementation of the waste charge, a “Keep Trash Off the Ground” policy and “3-in-1 Resource Recovery Scheme” were carried out by the Taipei government in 1996 and 1997, respectively. The former made sure that people must classify waste at home and hand rubbish to the collection vehicles at specified times; the latter required the public to hand recyclables to the resource recovery vehicles that follow the waste collection vehicles twice a week, integrating waste separation, resource recycling and waste collection at one shot. Since 2003, resource recovery collection has increased to five times a week, and a free recovery service for kitchen waste is also provided. Since 2005, compulsory recycling has been in place.

The “Hong Kong: Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources 2013-2022” shows no plan for Hong Kong to implement a city-wide waste separation at source, the only developed city in the world that does not do so.

Yet, secretary Wong is proposing to do what bureaucrats do best: creating another bureaucracy headed by two senior officials to oversee the waste charging scheme.

The scheme should not be approved by Legco unless and until a truly holistic waste management policy is developed that includes waste separation at source, aggressive recycling, and the deployment of advanced thermal treatment technology.

Tom Yam, Lantau

dynamco Feb 24th 2015

they inherited frequent flyer Edward Yau’s legacy such as ‘OP Green Fence’ revealed:

2012 Environment Panel boss Chan Hak Kan:
“15. The Panel held another special meeting on 20 April 2012 to continue discussion on the funding proposals. Noting that many measures pertaining to the Policy Framework had yet to be implemented, members were opposed to the reliance on landfills for waste disposal in view of the associated environmental nuisances, as well as the long lead time and cost incurred from restoration of landfills. They stressed the need for an holistic package of waste management measures (including waste reduction, separation and recycling) with waste incineration as a last resort & better communication between the two terms of Government on environmental policies, in particular on the need for incineration. They also urged the Administration to identify other suitable outlying islands for IWMF & promote the local recycling industry. In view of the foregoing, members did not support the submission of the funding proposals to the Public Works Subcommittee for consideration.”
What has changed since this statement ? well the only thing is that hypocrite Chan Hak Kan is now directed by DAB to support the incinerator package.

Fridgeonomics and a ‘zero waste’ world

Linda Yueh

After a five-year effort, Unilever tells me that it has achieved zero waste in all of its 240 factories in 67 countries worldwide. It says that it generates efficiency savings of €200m a year by eliminating disposal costs. Smaller businesses like restaurants have aimed for zero wastage, but Unilever – which makes PG Tips and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – says it’s the first global company to do so.

It’s a fairly remarkable claim and achievement since undoubtedly landfill waste has a huge environmental cost. The UK government estimates that households in England alone generate 177 million tonnes of waste each year.

So, if it’s good for business and the environment, then why hadn’t Unilever and other businesses done this before?

I put that question to Pier Luigi Sigismondi who heads Unilever’s supply chain. He said that the ethos around sustainability has shifted sufficiently to get one of the world’s biggest companies to launch this initiative. Remember that Unilever has had problems with environmental groups; for instance, as the biggest buyer of palm oil. Environmental groups have been concerned with the rate of deforestation in places such as Indonesia due to palm oil extraction. So, the stakeholder pressures appear to be there.

When I asked if up-front capital costs are what puts businesses off, because most are geared for shorter-term returns, Mr Sigismondi pointed out that this was also changing as the biggest companies increasingly recognise the need to address sustainability.

t’s an issue that came up when we discussed Fridgeonomics on Talking Business this week.

As part of A Richer World season, we peered into people’s fridges to see how consumption patterns are changing with incomes. Refrigerators also contribute to global warming and the rate of refrigeration use is growing rapidly in the emerging world. So, we discussed technologies that use solar power, and other innovations that try to reduce the environmental impact and also allow more of the developing world to have refrigerators even in places with patchy electricity.

Indeed, even with electrification challenges, owning a fridge is a mark of becoming middle class. The top three wish list items for a household emerging from poverty are a TV, a mobile phone and a fridge.

When China reached middle income status a decade ago, about a quarter of the population had fridges. Now, it’s about 90%, just shy of the 99% rate found in developed countries. In India, which still hasn’t reached $3,000 per capita income, fridge ownership is about 27% and growing as the middle class expands.

Of course, rising incomes generate a growing demand for food, and a richer variety including meat. Global food production will need to increase by at least 60% to meet this demand by 2050 when the global population is expected to grow by two billion to nine billion. That poses sustainability challenges too.

Peering inside fridges around the world, it turns out that basic items, such as milk, comprised about 10 items. According to research by AllianceBernstein, for middle class households, there were more indulgent items such as ice cream. For the affluent, their fridges were stocked with healthier foods such as low-fat yogurt.

So, as more of the world becomes richer, the challenges around sustainability will also increase.

If, as it claims, Unilever has managed to make a business work with zero non-hazardous wastage, then that would a big step forward on an issue that will only gain in importance as the world gets richer.