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September 10th, 2014:

Pearl River Delta governments axe cross-border air quality index

Thursday, 04 September, 2014

Cheung Chi-fai

Decade-old index scrapped in favour of online platform that has been criticised as redundant and difficult for public to understand

Governments in the Pearl River Delta area have axed the decade-old regional air-quality index in favour of an online platform offering pollutant concentration readings that has been criticised as hard to understand.

The Environmental Protection Department announced the change in a press release yesterday after the environmental chiefs of Macau, Guangdong and Hong Kong signed an agreement on so-called “regional air-pollution control and prevention”.

The three governments agreed to do away with the index and a related map that used different colours to grade air quality across the region – a system in use since 2005 to monitor changes in air quality after a 2002 cross-border pact to reduce emissions.

After the termination of that index, there will no longer be a single yardstick covering the whole region. Rather, three different air-pollution indices and alert systems will now operate separately in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau.

The EPD hailed the new agreement as progress, with hourly updates of pollution readings at 23 locations in the region, including the newcomer Macau, via an online platform managed by the Guangdong authority.

The platform displays a map of the region, with the hourly concentration levels of six pollutants, such as ozone and fine particles, shown at each of the 23 selected monitoring locations: four in Hong Kong, one in Macau and the rest scattered around the Pearl River Delta.

However, Guangdong’s environmental protection bureau already releases hourly updates of air-quality data on its website (and has since 2012), covering 111 locations in the province and the same range of air pollutants.

Dr Cheng Luk-ki, the scientific and conservation head of the advocacy group Green Power, criticised the change as “a step backward” and a “loss of a common language in air pollution”.

He said that while the old index was compiled based on the national air-quality standards, it at least offered the readers clarity and meaningful comparisons of air-quality measurements across the region.

“The public will now find it hard to understand the meaning behind those pollution readings, without a simple index to explain the impacts,” he said.

He said the online platform was already redundant, as it made more sense for people to go directly to the air-quality index offered by their own local environmental authority.

Professor Wong Tze-wai, an air-pollution expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who helped devise the city’s new air-quality health index, said neither an “oversimplified index” nor “complicated pollution readings” would be meaningful to the public.

He said it would be beneficial if the air-quality indices between Hong Kong and the mainland could be unified, but he believed that would be a time-consuming process with many technical problems that would have to be overcome.

Hong Kong now employs an alert system that gives air-quality information by neighbourhood on a scale of one to 11, displaying the health risk associated with each reading.

Macau and Guangdong, meanwhile, use conventional air-quality index systems that express pollution as one of six grades, with scales from 0 to 500 and from 0 to more than 300.

Ljubljana; first EU capital to adopt a Zero Waste strategy

The Slovenian capital and three other municipalities, Vrhnika, Borovnica and Log Dragomer join the European network of Zero Waste municipalities

September 8, 2014

The mayor of Ljubljana, Mr. Zoran Janković announced today the commitment of his city to move towards Zero Waste.

In a press conference which took place in the Town Hall of the Slovenian capital the mayor of Ljubljana together with the mayor of Vrhnika, Stojan Jakin, the president of Zero Waste Europe, Rossano Ercolini and the chair of the Scientific Committee of ZWE, Enzo Favoino, confirmed the adhesion of Ljubljana and three other municipalities to the European network of Zero Waste communities. With this move Ljubljana becomes the first capital in the EU to adopt the Zero Waste goal.

Currently, Ljubljana is already the EU capital with best performance regarding waste separation and waste avoidance; it separately collects 60 % of municipal waste and generates less than 150kg of residual waste –what is not recycled or composted- per person yearly. Until 2025 they commit to increase separate collection to 78 % and decrease the amount of residual waste to 60 kg per person per year. With this commitment for zero waste, Ljubljana officially rules out building any incinerator in order to have the flexibility to continue reducing the non-recyclable waste and push for prevention and recycling.

Mr Janković, Mayor of Ljubljana said “In August residents of Ljubljana separately collected over 60% of their waste. They adopted responsible waste management as their own project. I am therefore specially proud that today Ljubljana became the first European Zero Waste capital.”

The other Slovenian towns to join the network of Zero Waste municipalities are Vrhnika, Borovnica and Log Dragomer. Today they collect and recycle over 76 % of its waste and on the average each resident creates 80 kg of residuals per year. By 2020, those municipalities will increase separate collection to 80 % and decrease residuals to 70 kg per person per year. To read the case study of Vhrnika click here.

Erika Oblak, coordinator of Zero Waste Slovenia said “No reuse or recycling system will be successful without the participation of the residents. Today we celebrate with all who separately collect our waste and those who support sharing our resources with future generations”.

On September 9, a conference will take place in the National Council of Slovenia –low chamber of the national parliament- to present the best practices from Zero Waste Europe and discuss the plans for zero waste implementation in Slovenia.