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Cars aren’t the major culprits of air pollution – Letters to the editor

It is depressing that “Clean Air Network believes demand-led management of private cars is the only effective means to … lower roadside air pollution in Hong Kong”, as Ms Kwong Sum Yin, the chief executive officer of the organisation, declares in her recent letter (“Restricting car usage is the only effective way to cut air pollution in Hong Kong [1]”, January 27).

Her misguided primary focus on cars is wrong for two reasons. First, it is wildly inaccurate. In 2013, the government produced a detailed analysis of the sources of roadside pollution by nitrogen oxides and PM10. Private cars then made up about 70 per cent of Hong Kong’s vehicles. But they contributed a mere 3 per cent of nitrogen oxide pollution, and 2 per cent of PM10. Goods vehicles contributed 44 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively, of these pollutants.

The dangers from private cars are minuscule, not just in absolute terms, but also in relative terms. A franchised bus produces 618 times more nitrogen oxides than a private car, while a minibus produces 398 times more PM10 than a private car, though being of similar size. In addition, cars run relatively infrequently, while lorries and buses are used continuously. Restricting private cars will have negligible impact on pollution, relative to the impact of better controlling buses and lorries.

The second reason Ms Kwong is wrong is that by attacking the private car owner (though I agree we should use road pricing to reduce congestion), she alienates the middle class while taking the heat off the vested interests that continue to spew poisons into our air and into the lungs of our children. This should not be Clean Air Network’s mission.

Our political leaders should engage this public health issue, and directly attack those who resist cleaning up our air and put private profit before public health.

Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels

Hong Kong green activist given court go-ahead to challenge dumping of waste at Lantau wetland site

On a cold , damp day in a tucked away corner of south Lantau, buffalo stroll casually onto an expansive grassy wetland for a morning graze.

It makes for a tranquil, pastoral sight, apart from the metre-high mounds of rubble and construction waste piled up on several plots of land there. The eyesore at Pui O has irked local residents and villagers for years. Many also fear the buffalo could disappear as the greenery vanishes.

It therefore came as a pleasant surprise for them on Wednesday when the High Court gave the go-ahead for a judicial challenge against the environmental authorities for allowing such dumping on the wetlands, which are on land zoned for coastal protection but with an awkward patchwork of private, corporate and government ownership.

Mui Wo resident Christian Masset, a former chairman of green group Clear the Air, has been given permission to challenge the director of environmental protection’s decisions to allow construction waste to be dumped at four sites near the wetlands between 2014 and this year.

The sites are on the fringe of the wetlands between Ham Tim San Tsuen and Pui O beach, the court heard yesterday.

A visit to the site yesterday revealed that the marsh was still pockmarked with rubble. A mysterious rust-covered, half-built structure lay abandoned in one corner. One conservationist said these were “destroy first, build later” tactics.

“Landowners know officials can’t do much as the land is private and the likelihood of zoning getting changed is higher when the land is degraded,” said Save Lantau Alliance convenor Eric Kwok Ping. “When the opportunity for development comes, they say, ‘what wetland?’”

The Environmental Protection Department declined to comment on the case as the judicial process was under way, but stressed it did not accept any “destroy first, build later” behaviour.

The hearing on Wednesday centred on what Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung called a “vacuum”.

Barrister Jonathan Chang, for the director, argued that the environmental protection chief, once he was approached by a property owner, would acknowledge the request and give permission, but environmental considerations would not be taken into account.

Chang also argued that the Waste Disposal Ordinance suggested the need for a licensing system, but the relevant provision had not yet been put in effect.

The court refused to grant interim relief to Masset, who sought a halt to dumping until the judicial review was completed.

However, Au said Masset, represented by barrister Robin McLeish, was able to demonstrate the environmental risks involved and the sense of urgency in the case. The review is expected to start after both sides file related documents to the court.
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ERP submission by Clear the Air

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See the ‘real’ landfill life numbers if we remove the food waste content

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Email Exchange between CTA and EPD on Municipal Solid Waste

date: Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 2:46 PM
subject: Fw: E(15/3607) per capita MSW to landfills

Dear Ronald,

Thank you for clarifying what we though was the situation, anyway

The current ENB/EPD method of announcing waste per capita stats is (deliberately ?) flawed

They seemingly divide the total MSW by 7.24 million which is the population of Hong Kong in 2014 to produce the alleged per capita waste per day figure of 1.35 kgs

However this method ignores the waste generated by 61 million tourists (Q1) the cruise and container / other OGV ships (Q2) and at least the transit/transfer pax passing through Chep Lap Kok and adjacent ferry terminal

Adding these additional numbers to divide into the total MSW would obviously reduce the 1.35 kgs per capita per day alleged by ENB/EPD.

Given that there is no source separation of waste legislation, a vast amount of local MSW is tainted by food waste which comprises 3600 tonnes per day.

This ultra wet taint of course prevents the recycling of materials once tainted by that food waste .

The per capita waste numbers would be far different if the food waste were separated allowing recyclables’ collection. Sadly the Government does not collect recyclables outside of housing estates

yet proposes in future to charge for waste collection under a polluter pays system, when the basics are not in place for separation and recycling in the first place.

And this is ‘Policy’ ?

Kind regards,
James Middleton


Sent: 15 December, 2015 01:58 PM

Subject: Re: Fw: E(15/3607) per capita MSW to landfills

Dear Mr. Middleton,

Thank you for your interest in the coverage of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Hong Kong.

At present, this Department compiles statistics on disposal of solid wastes at landfills based on weighbridge data and other relevant information recorded at entrances of landfills. The MSW are classified into three categories, namely, domestic, commercial and industrial wastes. Please refer to Appendix 1 of the report on ‘Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong’ at the link provided below for more details. Statistics on various categories of solid wastes disposed of at landfills are shown in Plate 2.1 of the report.

On the specific questions you raised, our consolidated reply is given below.

Q1. Why is no allowance apparently made for the 61 million visitors who would contribute to the daily said MSW disposal rates to landfill here ?
Q2. What about the MSW taken off visiting container ships and other Ocean Going Vessels berthing here?
Q3. What consideration is given to MSW deposited / food waste from transit passengers at Chep Lap Kok ?

A1-3: Statistics on wastes generated locally out of economic activities including local consumption by those visitors mentioned in your above questions will be captured when the wastes generated by them are collected and transported to local landfills for disposal. These wastes will be recorded as part of the commercial waste received at landfills and be captured in our solid waste disposal statistics.

Yours faithfully,
Ronald Mak,
Environmental Protection Department


Sent: 09/12/2015 12:32

Subject: E(15/3607) per capita MSW to landfills

Dear Sir,

We have seen in the press that Hong Kong per capita MSW to landfills is 1.35 kgs per capita in 2014

Why is no allowance apparently made for the 61 million visitors who would contribute to the daily said MSW disposal rates to landfill here ?

What about the MSW taken off visiting container ships and other Ocean Going Vessels berthing here?

What consideration is given to MSW deposited / food waste from transit passengers at Chep Lap Kok ?

Kind Regards,
James Middleton

image001 (1)

Overnight arrivals 27 770 459
Same-day arrivals 33 068 377
Average hotel occupancy rate 90%
Average length of stay of overnight visitors 3.3 nights ( ie is that 4 days?)
Overnight arrivals 27, 770, 459 x 3.3 = 91,642,514 equiv days
Same-day arrivals = 33, 068, 377 days


Hong Kong OWTF phase 1 – Design Build Operate tender cost per tonne of treated food waste almost HK$ 2,400

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CTA Letter on managing municipal solid waste and Reduction and recycling of food waste

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Beijing’s pollution saviour: Mother Nature


Construction cranes are shrouded in smog in Beijing. Photo: Bloomberg

Residents say officials now rely on weather to control capital’s dire smog

What a difference a day makes. The arrival of strong winds overnight on Tuesday blew away much of the heavy smog that had choked Beijing for days, allowing the capital’s air quality to return to a healthy level within hours.

A cold front from the north reached the capital at about 11pm on Tuesday, and by midnight the concentration of PM2.5 particles, considered most dangerous to human health, had dropped to 22 – considered a healthy level – in the suburbs and 88 in the city. Residents woke up to a clear blue sky with cold, fresh air as the concentration of the fine particulates dropped to below 10 from more than 500 on Tuesday.

Internet users were quick to share pictures of the city’s clear skyline on social media while at the same time expressing in frustration that the capital was relying entirely on weather changes to fight the smog.

Officials, when questioned why the highest-level red pollution warning alert was not issued as the pollution index reached a hazardous level over the previous five days, explained that this was due to technological limitations.

Peng Yingdeng, a researcher at the National Engineering Research Centre for Urban Pollution Control, said air pollution had been dropping for three years, yet the weather – especially this year’s severe El Nino conditions – made the air quality worse. Beijing is prone to spells of low pressure that trap air pollutants closer to the ground.

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Some questioned why a red alert, the highest level in a four-tier system, was not issued to help residents cope better. A red alert would force schools to shut down, cars to stay off the road on alternate days and construction projects halted.

The city’s Environmental Protection Administration has been under fire for issuing and maintaining only the orange alert even though air quality was so bad that readings were off the charts.

Unfavourable weather, together with coal-burning in Beijing’s suburban area and vehicle exhaust emissions, were to blame for the heavy smog, authorities said. (CTA: note that goods vehicles can only enter Beijing and other big Mainland cities after midnight)

According to Beijing Severe Air Pollution Contingency Plan, a red alert can only be issued by the Beijing Emergency Management Office after being approved by the city mayor. It should be issued 24 hours in advance if air quality is forecast to be severe, with the air quality index over 300, for 72 hours.

But Peng said it was not possible to forecast air pollution precisely for a period longer than three days, and the Beijing environmental watchdog was upgrading its air quality projection system at a cost of 30 million yuan to extend forecasts to five days.

When air quality plummeted last Friday, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre forecast it to improve on Saturday. But the AQI nosedived on Sunday and continued to drop on Monday and Tuesday, an environmental protection Administration official told The Beijing News.

“But technical limitation is no excuse,” Peng said. “The local environmental protection authority could have warned people of the severity of the smog.”

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The Dangers of HNE 4-Hydroxy-Nonenal in hotel, public restaurants and home environments

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Park defenders set big day to remember

CTA says: issue a ‘Use it or Lose it’ declaration on developer land banks

They are sitting on agricultural land for years waiting to get some corrupt Govt officer to change its status for residential development

A new alliance will mark December 13 as Country Parks Appreciation Day in an effort to stymie those who eye natural spaces as potential sites for housing.

The Save Our Country Parks Alliance of 29 green groups is launching what is planned to be an annual event.

Lam Chiu-ying, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University and a former director of the Hong Kong Observatory, hopes the day will remind everyone of the value of country parks.

Lam wants people to take photos of themselves in parks on December 13 and tag it “SaveOurCountryParks” on social media so the alliance may gauge how many people back the campaign. The intention is to show “a lot of people in Hong Kong love our country parks.”

The alliance is recruiting volunteers for visitor counting and promotion work at park entrances on the day.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has spoken of using park land with “low ecological value” for housing, and a foundation led by a predecessor, Tung Chee-hwa, wants a review on park use.

One of Lam’s university colleagues, Ng Sai-leung, said planners should consider developing brownfield sites, golf courses and military sites before parks.