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April 2nd, 2012:

Banker – ‘I Am Leaving Hong Kong Explicitly Because Of The Air’

‘I am leaving Hong Kong explicitly because of the air’, Alex Turnbull, an Australian banker told Bloomberg. He plans a move to Singapore in May.

Sandwiched between the Asian headquarters of JPMorgan Chase and a Tiffany outlet, the air-quality meter in the Central business district has registered an average roadside pollution level of ‘high’ or ‘very high’ every day bar one this year.

In 1999, 66 percent of days were at those levels. By 2010 and 2011, it was more than 90 percent. Today in Central the roadside reading was 70, and 89 in the Causeway Bay shopping district, government data show.

‘It is such a shame as Hong Kong is an incredibly beautiful place the 10 days a year when you actually realize that the tree-lined hills are dark green and not a washed out gray-green color’, said Alexander West, founder of hedge fund Blue Pool Capital.

To read the full Bloomberg article, please access via the link below:

Hong Kong as Dirtiest Financial Center Is Tsang’s Legacy

Organic waste – helps cut out garbage piles

HK Standard

Monday, April 02, 2012

Separate disposal of recyclable organic waste can help households reduce the volume of total garbage by up to 60 percent.

That is the finding of a trial scheme by Friends of the Earth that saw families separate recyclable food waste from their garbage.

The green group called for more organic-waste recycling facilities to encourage families to agree to its proposed “trash-tax” scheme.

“We hope the government can give more support to food-waste reycling because we found that separating recyclable food waste from garbage can result in enormous cost savings under a waste-charging scheme due to the lower amount of rubbish disposed,” Friends of the Earth environmental affairs manager Celia Fung Sze-lai said.

The domestic food-waste separation scheme, carried out in 122 households last month, measured the effect such a separation may have on volume when a charging scheme is implemented.

Households were given white garbage bags and divided into two groups: one that carried out waste separation and a control group that disposed garbage as normal.

The control group used up an average of 24 garbage bags per month, compared with just 10 – or 60 percent less – for the waste separators.

Based on waste treatment cost, the price of a garbage bag should be HK$1.30, the group estimates. This means a family that separates its food waste need only pay HK$13 a month if a waste-charging scheme is introduced, equal to the price of a cheeseburger, Fung said.

The Environment Bureau says the SAR produces about 3,200 tonnes of food waste daily, two-thirds of which come from households.

Much of this waste is mixed with other non-recyclable waste, rendering it unsuitable for recycling, Fung said.

It is also a problem in municipal landfills, as organic waste breaks down to produce methane, a greenhouse gas with a warming effect that is 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide.

“That is why organic recycling is a no-brainer,” said Fung. “It’s cheaper to recycle food waste than to consign it to valuable landfill space, and the compost can be sold as organic fertilizer.”

Nearly 90 percent of the experimental group felt food recycling is convenient, while almost all families were open to recycling food waste.

Fung called on the government to offer more collection facilities at housing estates and more compost facilities to handle organic waste.

Costly incinerator a waste of money

SCMP – 2 April 2012

Edwin Lau calls on legislators to demand the cost-effective solutions that are available

The Environment Bureau recently unveiled the capital cost for the incinerator it plans to build close to Shek Kwu Chau – almost HK$15 billion. Is it worth spending that much for a big burner to destroy our “waste”, which contains some 2,000 tonnes of paper, over 1,900 tonnes of plastic and about 3,200 tonnes of food waste a day that could yet be recycled?

The estimated cost in 2008 for an incinerator of the same capacity – handling 3,000 tonnes of waste a day – planned near Tuen Mun was HK$4 billion. Only a few years later, the cost has increased by nearly fourfold. Legislators should surely demand that the government provide valid justification for such a huge increase.

At this stage, a breakdown of the new estimate is unavailable. We assume that the reclamation of 16 hectares of land accounts for the bulk of the cost increase (about HK$10 billion). That begs the question: why has the government selected this site, as it would involve throwing so much of taxpayers’ money into the sea to “float” an incinerator? The Advisory Council on the Environment reviewed the environmental impact assessment reports for locating the incinerator in Tuen Mun and in Shek Kwu Chau, and it endorsed both proposals. The council did not make a choice; it is the bureau that claims the offshore plant is more eco-friendly.

Why has the government not opted for the cheaper and faster Tuen Mun proposal? Without convincing reasons, surely our legislators would not blindly approve such huge funding for a Shek Kwu Chau plant.

Former environment minister Sarah Liao Sau-tung has identified the crux of our waste problem as early as 2005: our consumption-led lifestyle. She set out a comprehensive management plan that included measures such as waste charging, food-waste recycling, a ban on landfill and an incinerator to be commissioned by 2014. She also proposed a waste-generation reduction target of 1per cent per year. Her successor, Edward Yau Tang-wah, has never taken it seriously.

The incinerator will also cost HK$353 million a year to run. If this money were to be used to enhance our recycling systems and provide incentives to encourage recycling for low-value recyclables, I am sure we could cut down our daily disposal amount by 3,000 tonnes or more – equivalent to the daily capacity of the incinerator. It would also help create jobs for the grass roots while extending the life of our landfills.

It’s not rocket science: it only requires a stronger political will from top officials. To burn or not to burn – it is still in the hands of the current administration.

Edwin Lau Che-feng is director of general affairs at Friends of the Earth (HK)