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SCMP letters: Concerns over new organic waste plant

from Emily Lam, Tai Po resident, writing in to the SCMP:

I am pleased that the Legislative Council’s panel on environmental affairs has approved funding for the construction of Hong Kong’s first organic waste treatment plant in northern Lantau.

Although some argue that the government should focus on waste reduction at source, building the Siu Ho Wan facility is still necessary to treat the waste that cannot be avoided, such as vegetable and fruit trimmings, and fish bones.

However, I have some concerns about the project.

According to the Environmental Protection Department’s website, the collected food waste will be composted to produce soil conditioners, for example. It is estimated that about 20 tonnes of compost will be generated daily.

Yet, soil conditioner does not have to be applied every day to enhance the growth of plants and crops.

I therefore think this 20 tonnes will exceed the demand in Hong Kong.

The government should think of the possible uses and distribution channels for the soil conditioner.

If it is not used and therefore some of this material is wasted, the plant will become a white elephant.

Apart from market size, the department will also have to recognise the importance of quality control. If quality control is variable, it will be difficult to process it effectively.

Given that 200 tonnes of food waste will be treated per day, how can the government ensure the quality of the organic product that is generated by the plant?

As the focus initially is on business waste, officials will have to work with what are described as “professional kitchens” so that companies educate kitchen staff to co-operate with the food waste recycling programme.

It might be more cost-effective for the department to start with large food companies and hotels.

It could also work with property management companies of shopping malls to engage restaurant tenants in the programme as they can spread the message more quickly and effectively.

24 Mar 2013

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