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SCMP: Follow best practice on waste incineration, and think local

Friday, 15 August, 2014


As project designer of a conservation group on Lantau, I wish to respond to the letter by Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection, regarding the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator (“Incinerator will adopt proven, cost-effective technology on island [1]”, August 5).

I visited the plasma arc gasification plant in Teesside, in northeast England, on June 18, joining its annual open day. Many delegates and big name companies from around the world attended. I was the plant’s first “Hong Kong delegate”.

The day included presentations and a visit to the plant, which was impressive. It is the largest plant in the world and will come into commission by next year.

The most striking part of the visit was the large number of delegates from China, gathering information on plasma. Two out of the three presentations given were by Chinese companies, which have set up plasma gasification plants; it felt as if China was teaching the rest of the world.

I also talked with the British team that met seven Hong Kong government representatives when they visited Britain. They had met in a hotel room in London for an hour: the Hong Kong representatives had said they did not have enough time to visit the Teesside plant. They then visited a small-scale plasma gasification site, in Avonmouth, in southern England, Afval, a company generating electricity from waste in the Netherlands, and then went on to Denmark.

The reaction of the British officials had been the same as mine: surely, if you go on a fact-finding mission, you should go to the best example of whatever that subject is.

Someone senior in the government told me we needed the proposed super incinerator, because, firstly, Hong Kong people were never going to be able to reduce, reuse and recycle their waste in time; and, secondly, plasma would not work.

After my visit to the Teesside plant, my response is to ask: why will plasma arc facilities not work? If the rest of the world is doing it, and it needs to be done, then Hong Kong can do it.

Let’s catch up. Hong Kong always wants everything super-sized, but is that the way of the future?

The workable future is smaller scale and localised. A plasma plant can be constructed quickly, and does not pollute or need landfills, as there is no residue ash waste.

We can set up cluster recycling centres for composting, recycling, plasma arc facilities and education centres where they are needed all over Hong Kong.

The government has already signed contracts so it is reluctant to change tack. But what is really best for Hong Kong?

Jenny Quinton, Ark Eden Foundation, Lantau

More on this:

Incinerator will adopt proven, cost-effective technology on island [1]

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