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Missing SCMP story: Jim Middleton’s solution for treating Hong Kong’s wet food waste

This was the story that went out in some editions of the SCMP on 16 October 2013. But it didn’t make it online and some other editions due to some editorial mistake.

“We’ve come across a novel scheme for dealing with Hong Kong’s waste. A document prepared by Jim Middleton, Chairman of Clear The Air, says we can pour it down the drain. Not all of it – only the food waste, which accounts for 42.3 per cent of the total disposed of in landfills. Hong Kong’s wet food waste (WFW) has a high water content ranging from 90 per cent to 70 per cent compared with 30 per cent in Europe and around 50 per cent for Korea and Japan. Unsurprisingly, this makes it difficult to burn without adding additional feedstock.

It is this wet ‘putrescible’ matter that gives waste a bad name since it is the source of the bad smell that emanates from refuse trucks and land fills. The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is planning two anaerobic digestion waste treatment plants which will treat a combined 500 tonnes per day compared with the 3,600 tonnes/day of food waste that is disposed of in landfills. These will generate about 7.5 megawatts of power and produce about 50 tonnes per day of low quality compost. It’s yet to be established if there is a market for this.

But instead of going through this process, Clear The Air suggests dealing with the food waste at source and make  every restaurant, wet market, business, caterer, hotel and household responsible for disposing of their own food waste as it is generated, by using waste disposal shredding (garburator) units with outfalls linked to the existing sewerage system. Given that between 70-90 per cent of the food waste is water, it could easily be handled by Hong Kong’s current sewage and drainage arrangements. This would halve the amount of waste going to landfills and give Hong Kong some breathing space to consider alternative approaches to dealing with the rest of the waste, instead of its proposed incineration proposal. The plan is for a large incinerator to be built on the scenic island of Shek Kwu Chau while tons of toxic ash are daily shipped to  ash lagoons at Tsang Tsui near Tuen Mun .”

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