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October 25th, 2012:

Sweden runs out of garbage, forced to import from Norway

Sweden, a recycling-happy land where a quarter of a million homes are powered by the incineration of waste, is facing a unique dilemma: The nation has run out of much-needed fuel.

Thu, Oct 25 2012 at 9:30 AM EST

a recycling center in trash-strapped Sweden

Sweden, birthplace of the SmörgåsbordEric Northman, and the world’s preferred solar-powered purveyor of flat-pack home furnishings, is in a bit of a pickle: the squeaky clean Scandinavian nation of more than 9.5 million has run out of garbage. The landfills have been tapped dry; the rubbish reserves depleted. And although this may seem like a positive — even enviable — predicament for a country to be facing, Sweden has been forced to import trash from neighboring countries, namely Norway. Yep, Sweden is so trash-strapped that officials are shipping it in — 80,000 tons of refuse annually, to be exact — from elsewhere.

You see, Swedes are big on recycling. So big in fact that only 4 percent of all waste generated in the country is landfilled.

Good for them! However, the population’s remarkably pertinacious recycling habits are also a bit of a problem given that the country relies on waste to heat and to provide electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes through a longstanding waste-to-energy incineration program. So with citizens simply not generating enough burnable waste to power the incinerators, the country has been forced to look elsewhere for fuel. Says Catarina Ostlund, a senior advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency: “We have more capacity than the production of waste in Sweden and that is usable for incineration.”

Public Radio International has the whole story (hat tip to Ariel Schwartz at Co.Exist), a story that may seem implausible in a country like garbage-bloated America where overflowing landfills are anything but scarce.

As mentioned, the solution — a short-term one, according to Ostlund — has been to import (well, kind of import) waste from Norway. It’s kind of a great deal for the Swedes: Norway pays Sweden to take its excess waste, Sweden burns it for heat and electricity, and the ashes remaining from the incineration process, filled with highly polluting dioxins, are returned back to Norway and landfilled.

Ostlund suggests that Norway might not be the perfect partner for a trash import-export scheme, however. “I hope that we instead will get the waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries,” she tells PRI. “They don’t have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste.”

‘I wouldn’t want a waste facility near my home’ says Veolia director—recycling-and-waste-management&contentID=2182

‘I wouldn’t want a waste facility near my home’ says Veolia director

A boss at Veolia has said he would not want to live near one of his firm’s waste incinerators.

Speaking at an industry policy event, the waste giant’s executive director for external affairs, Robert Hunt, said planning for waste facilities was a big issue because nobody wanted one built near them.

“I don’t think I’d want a waste facility near my home, I have to say”, Hunt added.

He said that while “in a democracy everybody’s got to have their say” on planning issues, the time taken to get planning permission made it difficult to attract foreign investment. The infrastructure planning system needed to be faster and more efficient, he added.

Chief operating officer at the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWaRB), Wayne Hubbard, disagreed with Hunt. Hubbard, also speaking at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum event, said the planning system was delivering waste infrastructure.  The regime, he argued, distinguishes between large thermal treatment plants and smaller waste facilities which are less problematic.

“I don’t buy this received wisdom that planning is an issue”, he said, “but planning is definitely an issue for certain types of infrastructure”.

Hubbard said there was a need to focus more on smaller merchant facilities with more flexibility to respond to changes in market requirements.

“It’s okay to have the big waste infrastructure as long as it’s backed up by a load of other stuff that will come from entrepreneurial, smaller waste management companies”, he said.

Campaigner Shlomo Dowen of UK Without Incineration Network slammed Hunt’s comments on planning. He said the firm had a “blind spot” in respecting local residents and Hunt should “stop blaming the people for shortcomings in Veolia’s business model”.

“Growing rejection of incineration is about much more than the planning system”, added Dowen.

Kowloon City, Yau Tsim Mong top list of idling-engine black spots


Submitted by admin on Oct 25th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Jennifer Ngo

The area, and Yau Tsim Mong, have the most streets where drivers park with engines running

Ninety-two streets have been identified as black spots for vehicles with idling engines, with Kowloon City and Yau Tsim Mong the districts most affected, environment officials say.

Many of these streets are near schools, tourist spots and bays for loading and unloading goods.

The Environment Bureau would “request traffic wardens to pay more attention to [the] black spots during normal patrol duty”, bureau chief Wong Kam-sing told legislators yesterday.

The bureau would also conduct publicity and enforcement activities at those places, he said.

The Motor Vehicle Idling Ordinance was introduced last December to reduce roadside pollution, the city’s biggest air pollution problem.

But its implementation has triggered public complaints that the Environmental Protection Department is too lenient in enforcing the law.

In the 10 months since the law took effect, only three drivers have been charged a fixed penalty of HK$320 for keeping the engines of their parked vehicles running for more than the allowed limit of three minutes.

The ban was also not enforced for 40 days during the recent summer because of overly hot or wet weather, in accordance with weather-related exemptions.

In the meantime, roadside air pollution hit a peak of 212 in Central – the highest on record in the city with the exception of a sandstorm in 2010.

Kowloon City was the district with the most black spots, with 15 streets, followed by Yau Tsim Mong with 12, officials said.

A street was identified as a black spot if it received more than one complaint of an idling engine within three months, a government spokesman said.

The department did not provide a breakdown of the exact locations of the streets listed.

Yesterday afternoon, cars and school buses lined the Causeway Bay area outside St Paul’s Convent School on Leighton Road, one of the black spots.

While the two school buses had their engines turned off, some of the private cars had their motors left running as the drivers waited to pick up their young charges from school.

Private cars, some with engines idling, were parked or double-parked in side streets leading off Leighton Road – including Sunning and Hoi Ping roads.

Wong said traffic wardens and environmental protection inspectors had timed 806 vehicles across the city and held 340 publicity activities to raise awareness of the issue. He said more drivers now switched off their engines while their vehicle were parked, but admitted in some cases this was because law enforcement officers were timing them.


Kowloon City

Yau Tsim Mong

idling engine

Source URL (retrieved on Oct 25th 2012, 5:10am):

Government resolve on cleaner air must not waver


Submitted by admin on Oct 25th 2012, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion

Lisa Genasci

Lisa Genasci applauds the government for pledging long-due action

We might finally have an administration that cares about cleaning our filthy air. Indications are that the new administration led by C.Y.Leung will act to finally stem the choking smog that represents Hong Kong’s No 1 public health crisis and is a major impediment to the city’s competitiveness.

Last week, in his first address to the reconvened Legislative Council, the chief executive said improving air quality was among his top objectives. In a move that already stirred optimism about the government’s determination to protect public health, Leung last month named environmentalist Christine Loh Kung-wai undersecretary for the environment.

It was also encouraging to see, a day after Leung’s address, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing calling roadside pollution the city’s greatest problem, and that a basket of initiatives to improve the city’s air quality would be introduced next year. These, he said, would aim to comply with World Health Organisation standards rather than the outdated air quality measures still in use.

Among the initiatives being considered are “carrot and stick” policies that include removing some 60,000 heavily polluting diesel vehicles from our roads.

Such measures are urgently needed. Some older vehicles have been on the road for as long as 20 years and should be refused registration if they don’t comply with vehicle emission standards.

While atmospheric pollution might have improved somewhat – due mainly to lower emissions from the city’s power stations – the concentration of roadside emissions remains unacceptably high, and it is these emissions that affect us the most.

Wong has said that 80 per cent of roadside pollutants come from outdated commercial diesel vehicles.

Retiring obsolete commercial diesel vehicles will improve our air and our health. It’s also worth remembering that research from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology showed that, 53 per cent of the time, pollution that affects us most comes not from across the border, but from our own roads and ships on the harbour.

Indeed, the recent flurry of positive announcements from the government came amid a string of bad air days and public health warnings to moderate outdoor activity.

According to Hong Kong University’s Hedley Environmental Index, which measures the cost of pollution, yesterday was a “clear day” (one that complies with WHO air quality guidelines) in Hong Kong. The last such day was September 22, which means that our air stayed bad for more than a month.

According to the index, there have been only 59 clear days so far this year. The polluted days represent a cumulative HK$33 million in health-related and other costs.

Beyond the direct cost to our economy, surveys of business executives regularly point to our smoggy air as a real obstacle in recruiting and retaining workers – whether foreign or local. Patience is wearing thin.

By now we have heard from doctors and scientists that our dangerously high level of pollutants raises the risk of such conditions as bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, headaches, lung cancer, stroke and heart attack.

So we should applaud the suggestion of phasing out outdated commercial diesel vehicles, despite what I imagine will be heavy lobbying from the transport sector.

As Wong pointed out, mainland China is phasing out diesel vehicles more than 15 years old, so why should we be any different? The government’s carrot will include subsidies to soften the blow of replacing vehicle fleets.

It is encouraging that the administration has also spoken about retrofitting Euro II and III franchised buses with selective catalytic reduction devices to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions and might even tighten emission standards for LPG and petrol vehicles as well.

Here’s hoping that our new government will finally act to protect our health.

Lisa Genasci is CEO of the ADM Capital Foundation and has been a Hong Kong resident for 12 years


Air Pollution


Christine Loh Kung-Wai

old diesel vehicles

More on this:

Good start to tackling pollution [1]

Source URL (retrieved on Oct 25th 2012, 5:01am):


Idle enforcers won’t stop idling engines


Submitted by admin on Oct 25th 2012, 12:00am


Alex Lo

We are shocked and outraged! There are, according to environment officials, 92 black spots for idling engines across the city. What that really means is that drivers simply idle everywhere, paying no attention to the idling ban and its HK$320 fine. Well, we all know that, because police, traffic wardens and environmental protection inspectors rarely enforce the ban. So it’s absurd for the government even to bother doing the survey.

First, a confession: I drive every day and I have idled my engine on more than a few occasions. Only three drivers have been fined for idling more than the three-minute limit since the law came into effect last December and I am not one of them. In those times when agents of the law walked by, not a single one ever stopped and timed me.

However, I have been repeatedly ticketed, over many years, for failing to add money to parking meters that had expired just minutes before. From this, I can only conclude the priority of officers is to penalise overtime parking, an offence that actually harms no one, to the neglect of engine-idling, which does harm to everyone’s health.

Environment chief Wong Kam-sing told lawmakers yesterday that 806 vehicles were timed, presumably not from the time when they stopped and kept the engines on, but when an officer stepped next to the car to alert the driver. This amounts to a warning, and of course, few drivers would end up getting fined that way.

There were also 40 days during this summer when enforcement was formally suspended because the weather was too hot or too wet. This is allowed under the law, thanks to myriad exemptions written into it.

Seriously, has the Environmental Protection Department been subsumed under Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks? For this paper tiger of a law, we have to thank Wong’s predecessor, Edward Yau Tang-wah, the current director of the Chief Executive’s Office.

The lack of enforcement, compared to how readily officers penalise parking offences, indicates it’s official policy. I can assure you I would turn off my engine unfailingly if there was a good chance I’d be fined. Let’s not be intimidated by angry truckers, delivery van drivers and their trade leaders. Enforce the law, please!


Air Pollution

Idling engine ban


Law Enforcement

More on this:

Government resolve on cleaner air must not waver [1]

Source URL (retrieved on Oct 25th 2012, 4:55am):