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May, 2015:

Hong Kong recycling rate ‘drastically overstated’

February 10, 2014

China′s Environmental Protection Department (MEP) reported a significantly lower recycling rate of 39% for 2012, well down on the 48% of the previous year and a far cry from the claimed 52% for 2010.

Hong Kong recycled ′just 2.16 million tonnes of waste in 2012′, which is 860 000 tonnes less than 2011, according to MEP. About 60% of the decline was the result of a severe drop in the trade of plastic waste, of which reportedly 320 000 tonnes was recycled last year compared to 840 000 tonnes in 2011 and 1.58 million tonnes in 2010.

Recycling figures for Hong Kong were ′distorted by external factors′ beyond their control, MEP officials note. They cite fluctuations in the waste trade and irregularities in export declarations as the main issues in establishing an accurate recycling rate.

The system for calculating Hong Kong’s recycling performance will be overhauled, with data collection to be improved by the implementation of measures recommended by a yet-to-be-commissioned consultant. But according to MEP, it is unlikely that the ‘distortion’ will influence policy-making or the achievement of targets as detailed in the last year’s waste management blueprint.

Some industry parties such as the World Green Organisation are wary of the ‘inflation of the recycling rate’. Its chief executive William Yu Yuen-ping argues that MEP should convene an ‘expert group’ to review the system. The government would also benefit from setting up a registration system for recyclers in order to get first-hand recycling data, it has been suggested.

Hong Kong’s first e-waste plant to be built by German recycling firm under multimillion-dollar deal

Shirley Zhao

May 9th 2015

A German recycling company has won a multimillion-dollar contract to build and operate Hong Kong’s first electronic waste recycling facility in Tuen Mun.

Alba Integrated Waste Solutions Hong Kong, a joint-venture subsidiary of the Alba Group, signed a 12-year contract with the government yesterday. It will spend two years building the plant and then operate the collection and recycling system in the city for the next 10 years.

In February, the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee approved the government’s request for HK$548.6 million to construct the system. The government will also fund the operation costs, which are based on the volume of e-waste collected and treated at the plant. Officials expect the bill will run to HK$200 million a year.

Axel Schweitzer, chief executive of Alba, said if the price of the recyclables did not fall during the 10-year period, the company would expect a turnover of about HK$2.5 billion over the decade. The recyclables would be mainly sold to mainland buyers.

“As a world-beating international metropolis, Hong Kong is responding proactively to the challenges of waste management and recycling,” said Schweitzer.

“We are confident that the project will make a substantial contribution to the city’s environmental management system and open a new chapter on its sustainable economic development.”

Schweitzer said the plant would be capable of processing 30,000 tonnes of waste a year but the capability could be extended to a maximum of 56,000 tonnes by arranging additional shifts as needed.

The company will also set up eight collection points and three recycling centres across the city. Schweitzer said residents could go to the centres and the plant to learn more about e-waste recycling.

The city produces about 70,000 tonnes of electronic waste a year.

The system will be in line with the government’s proposed “polluter pays” scheme, where importers or distributors of five categories of appliances – televisions, fridges, washing machines, computer products and air-conditioners – will have to pay a “recycling fee” to help fund disposal of the city’s electrical goods.

Customers who buy a new television, for example, will be able to request the retailer to arrange free removal of the old set.

The government says the level of the fees will be submitted to Legco for approval “in due course”.

Alba Integrated Waste Solutions comprises Alba Asia, Germany-based Erdwich Vertriebs and Hong Kong-based IWS Environmental Technologies.

CTA says: What chance the Environment with so many rubber stampers?

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Having green features in Hong Kong buildings should not be mandatory

I refer to the articles (“Green certification fees rise sharply”, April 27), (“Developers laugh all the way to the bank”, April 28), and (“Monitor green building scheme”, May 4).

The building sector accounts for 90 per cent of electricity consumption and over 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Green Building Council was established to foster green building development and preserve the planet for future generations. One aspect of our work is to develop and manage BEAM Plus, a green building assessment and certification system tailor-made for Hong Kong.

The Buildings Department’s policy of offering gross floor area (GFA) concessions existed long before BEAM Plus was launched. The GFA concession provides developers with the resources to incorporate green features in buildings, benefiting occupants and the environment. If, for example, a developer chooses to install solar hot water panels, it needs a larger tank to store hot water.

Extra space is required, and the GFA concession encourages developers to incorporate such green features without decreasing the saleable area of the property.

The government applied a cap of 10 per cent on the GFA concession in 2011, while adding BEAM Plus certification to the list of criteria that developers must satisfy to qualify for the concession.

However, BEAM Plus certification is just one of a number of criteria. Developers were never granted a GFA concession simply by achieving certification.

Some may think that incorporating green features in buildings should be mandatory, but this would obstruct the green building movement. Building designs take into account the surrounding environment and other variables, so decisions must be made on a project-by-project basis. It’s also important to remember that the green building industry is a fast-moving sector. New ideas constantly emerge, and BEAM Plus has the flexibility to adapt to rapid advances in technology and changing market needs, whereas mandatory regulations would not.

The BEAM Plus registration fee is set fairly, according to project scale. It represents a very small portion of the construction cost. The fee is also used to fund the development of BEAM Plus, other research and development, and green building training, education and promotion. The Hong Kong Green Building Council is non-profit making and our income is invested back into the green building movement.

I hope that we, with the government, the industry and the public, can continue to build a greener Hong Kong.

Conrad Wong Tin-cheung, chairman, Hong Kong Green Building Council Limited

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Sweden Piles Up Toxic Ash on Norway Island

Sweden dumped over half a million tons of toxic ash from waste incinerators on a small island just outside Oslo, local media reported Tuesday.

The news of the highly toxic fly ash which has for the past five years been sent to Langøya Island, just outside Oslo, for treatment, caused an angry outcry among Norwegian environmentalists who demanded that the Swedes take care of their own toxic waste.

They also warned that heavy metals could leak into the Oslofjord, The Local reported.

“I doubt anyone wants to live there,” he told Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri. ”There are reports of explosions on the island, something that may happen due to the activities that take place there,” said Per-Erik Schulze, a marine biologist with Friends of the Earth Norway environmentalist group.

Fly ash, which must be filtered from incinerator smoke before it can be released into the environment, contains dangerous dioxins and furans, as well as high levels of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, copper and zinc.

Despite Sweden’s heavy reliance on incineration, there is nowhere in the country where municipalities and environmental contractors can dispose of the most toxic ash.

Read more:

T2 to `close for four years’

Hong Kong International Airport’s Terminal 2 which has been in operation for 13 years will be completely shut down for four years from 2019 as part of expansion work in preparation for the third runway.


Hong Kong International Airport’s Terminal 2 which has been in operation for 13 years will be completely shut down for four years from 2019 as part of expansion work in preparation for the third runway.

The HK$2.8 billion Terminal 2 started operation in February 2002, serving 27 airlines.

An Airport Authority spokesman told Sing Tao Daily, sister paper of The Standard, that Terminal 2 is 90 percent full, with at least 80 shops and 20 restaurants. “It is nearly completely rented out.”

But a source close to the authority said it will be “totally closed for expansion work for four years to carry out improvement work” if construction for the third runway starts as planned next year.

The expansion will include restructuring the main building of Terminal 2, and constructing two additional annex buildings.

According to the third runway system design announced earlier, Terminal 2 will be modified and expanded for providing a full-service processing terminal and construction of an associated road network.

The services will include handling arrivals, departures and transfers. And the two new annex buildings will be reserved for coach staging, car parking, loading and unloading bays, and a limousine lounge.

He said extra facilities will be put into services in Terminal 1, such as airline check-in counters and temporary coach stations for easing the problems brought by the expansion work.

The spokesman said the authority expects the new Terminal 2 to start operation in 2023.

The current Terminal 2 only handles departures but not arrivals and also lacks facilities for baggage handling.

It also does not have facilities for boarding. This forces passengers, after completing their check in, to take the automated people-mover systems or the train back to Terminal 1 for their flights.

According to the spokesman, about 3.2 million people checked in at Terminal 2 last year.

As of last month, a total of 27 airlines provide check-in services at Terminal 2.

Combined effects of prenatal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and material hardship on child IQ

•PAH–DNA adducts in cord blood provided an individual measure of prenatal exposure.
•Material hardship in pregnancy and child’s early life proxied economic deprivation.
•Adverse effects on child IQ at age 7 were seen only among mothers with hardship.
•Interaction between high adducts and hardship on working memory was significant.
•These results indicate the need for a multifaceted approach to prevention.



Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are common carcinogenic and neurotoxic urban air pollutants. Toxic exposures, including air pollution, are disproportionately high in communities of color and frequently co-occur with chronic economic deprivation.


We examined whether the association between child IQ and prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons differed between groups of children whose mothers reported high vs. low material hardship during their pregnancy and through child age 5. We tested statistical interactions between hardships and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, as measured by DNA adducts in cord blood, to determine whether material hardship exacerbated the association between adducts and IQ scores.


Prospective cohort. Participants were recruited from 1998 to 2006 and followed from gestation through age 7 years.


Urban community (New York City)


A community-based sample of 276 minority urban youth

Exposure measure

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon–DNA adducts in cord blood as an individual biomarker of prenatal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure. Maternal material hardship self-reported prenatally and at multiple timepoints through early childhood.

Main outcome measure

Child IQ at 7 years assessed using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.


Significant inverse effects of high cord PAH–DNA adducts on full scale IQ, perceptual reasoning and working memory scores were observed in the groups whose mothers reported a high level of material hardship during pregnancy or recurring high hardship into the child’s early years, and not in those without reported high hardship. Significant interactions were observed between high cord adducts and prenatal hardship on working memory scores (β = − 8.07, 95% CI (− 14.48, − 1.66)) and between high cord adducts and recurrent material hardship (β = − 9.82, 95% CI (− 16.22, − 3.42)).


The findings add to other evidence that socioeconomic disadvantage can increase the adverse effects of toxic physical “stressors” like air pollutants. Observed associations between high cord adducts and reduced IQ were significant only among the group of children whose mothers reported high material hardship. These results indicate the need for a multifaceted approach to prevention.

New case study: The story of Ljubljana, first Zero Waste capital in Europe!

This case study proves that high recycling targets are not only feasible, they also save money and create jobs

Zero Waste Europe publishes today a new case study showing the impressive transition of Ljubljana towards zero waste. The Slovenian capital is the first capital in Europe to declare the Zero Waste goal and today separately collects 61% of its municipal waste. It should be recalled that Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004 and before then it didn’t have proper waste separate collection in place.

Executive Director of ZWE, Joan-Marc Simon said “The case study of Ljubljana proves that it is possible for newest member states to reach most ambitius recycling targets in only a decade whilst keeping record low waste generation and costs. There is no reason for other Eu capitals or for the EU policy-makers to aim at less than what this experience proves as being possible and desirable.”

Snaga is the public company managing waste in Ljubljana and in 9 suburban municipalities serving around 380.000 residents. In average they have reached levels of source separation of 61% whilst generating only 121kg of non-recyclable waste per inhabitant and year. In contrast, the EU average level of source separation is 42% and a 285kg per inhabitant and year of residual waste.

In less than ten years, Ljubljana has become a frontrunner and is now 20% above the EU’s recycling rate and 10 points above EU’s 2020 targets. Furthermore, Ljubljana is committed to halving the amount of residuals and increasing separate collection to 78% by 2025.

Ljubljana has avoided incineration, while proving that going towards zero waste is completely feasible in a very short time. At the same time, it has made once again evident that effective door-to-door separate collection don’t only fall in the realm of small villages, but also work in large cities. Ljubljana has, therefore, managed to become the best performing EU capital, keeping one of the lowest waste management cost in Europe.

Today, these case studies show that, in contrast with the outdated idea of burning or burying our waste, preventing, reusing and recycling it create jobs and resilience, save money, and protect the environment and public health.

You can download the case study here.

Fund designed to help HK’s recycling trade upgrade its practices

I write to refute Tom Yam’s letter (“Three-colour recycle bins are window dressing and a sham”, April 3).

Mr Yam opines since the territory’s roadside three-colour recycle bins only collect 700 tonnes of recyclables a year – a minute quantity of Hong Kong’s total municipal solid waste – our recycling efforts are window dressing.

He is wrong. While roadside bins are highly visible, they are not where the bulk of Hong Kong’s recyclables are collected. Recyclables are mainly collected from residential estates and commercial properties – 80 per cent of our population can access non-roadside recycle bins close to where they live and work. Moreover, many recyclables are sold to the recyclers directly without going through the recycle bins system.

He also says we admitted our previous recycling data was wrong. In fact, we commissioned a study when we noticed a substantial change in the estimated recovery rate of wastes in 2012 due to unusual fluctuation in “domestic export” figures on waste plastics. The study concluded that the estimation method remained the most appropriate for Hong Kong, and since then we have also strengthened the verification work when compiling the relevant export figures.

Surprisingly, he attacks our district community green stations and public education plans as “handouts to pro-government groups”. The facts do not support his allegation since open tenders are held.

Perhaps the crux of his complaint is the lack of an “indigenous recycling industry” and no law to require waste separation.

Hong Kong has a recycling industry mainly focused on collection. A locally based re-manufacturing industry is difficult as land is scarce and pricey, which is why the bulk of our recyclables is sent to the mainland.

Mr Yam also alleges our HK$1 billion Recycling Fund is more window dressing. The fund, awaiting Legislative Council approval, is designed to help the recycling trade to upgrade its practices so greater quantities can be collected or even processed in Hong Kong.

As for Hong Kong not yet legislating to mandate waste separation, similar to the steps of various advanced cities, we need to strengthen our waste infrastructure, including putting waste charging in place before considering a waste separation law.

Our determination to implement our 10-year waste-to-resource blueprint published in 2013 can be seen from the large number of initiatives on the table. Among others, we will soon launch the new clean recycling campaign with a view to increasing the value and recovery rate of recyclables.

Wong Hon-meng, assistant director of environmental protection

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Incineration won’t destroy pollutants

As noted in previous letters to the editor, Elvis Au, assistant director of the Environmental Protection Department, has shown great bias in pushing plans for the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator. Yet during an RTHK radio show on April 25, his comments were even more skewed.

Asked about heavy metals in the ash, he said the technology would enable the complete destruction of these toxic materials.

This is a preposterous falsehood. As many a schoolchild will know, it took the energy of supernovas to create elements heavier than iron, which include toxic metals of concern with waste incinerators, such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury. Hence, they cannot be destroyed by incineration.

Instead, incinerators emit these along with particulates and a veritable cocktail of organic toxins – leading to serious health concerns, and documented cases of elevated levels of disease and deaths near incinerators.

Not only does Mr Au avoid mention of such research, but he also seems intent on rebranding the incinerator by calling it a waste-to-energy facility.

On the face of it, turning waste to energy seems a good idea, and Mr Au asserts the incinerator will power 100,000 households.

But much of Hong Kong’s waste is soggy rice and other food slops, which will not readily burn. So the incinerator will surely require fuel such as coal, or drying with electrical power.

Hong Kong deserves a far better waste policy, with real efforts in waste reduction and recycling, and trustworthy technology.

And Hong Kong deserves officials who have the willpower, passion and acumen to work with the community in protecting the environment.

Dr Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors

Source URL (modified on May 1st 2015, 4:30pm):