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November 20th, 2014:

China adopts waste processing technology rejected by Hong Kong

07 November, 2014

Howard Winn

We see with some interest that the Zhuhai Gaolan Port Economic Development Zone is planning to build a waste-to-energy plasma gasification project with a capacity of 2,000 tonnes per day. It will be the world’s biggest plasma plant. This is of interest because green groups have been imploring Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department to take a proper look at this technology before proceeding with its proposed incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau.

These pleas have fallen on deaf ears and the EPD has clung to its incinerator project. The current price for this is HK$19.2 billion and rising. The original price in April 2012 was HK$14.92 billion. The incinerator will produce almost 1,000 tonnes a day of toxic waste, which has to be loaded into barges and sent to landfills. The incinerator is estimated to export some 10MW of electricity. This compares with the Zhuhai Gaolan Port project, which aims to produce some 200MW of exportable power. The project is being built for about 2.8 billion yuan (HK$3.5 billion) which we are told should be increased by a factor of three to compare with Hong Kong prices, which takes it up to HK$10.5 billion.

So half the price and 20 times the amount of electricity and no toxic ash. But the other aspect of interest here is that the company building this plasma project – Guangdong Plasma Power – is a subsidiary of the local power company Zhongshang Jiaming Electric Power. We gather that Hong Kong’s local power companies have considered the possibility of running plasma plants next to their power plants but have received no response from the government. We are frequently told by the EPD in letters to the SCMP and in public statements that the plasma technology is untried and not suitable for Hong Kong. Yet Guangdong Plasma plans to start building its Zhuhai plant in July 2015 and to complete it by December 2016 well before Shek Kwu Chau is built.

Hopefully the Legislative Council finance committee will scrutinise this carefully before giving the green light. It might at the same time ask the EPD about its practice of sending 1.41 million tonnes a year of construction and demolition waste (CDW) to landfill. It seems odd given that Hong Kong sends 20,000 tonnes a day (7.28 million tonnes a year) of CDW to China for “storage” under an agreement with China’s Oceanographic Administration. The remaining 11.56 million tonnes of CDW is recycled according to the EPD. You have to wonder why any CDW is being sent to landfill.

People are rightly incredulous when they hear this. The EPD claims that 80 per cent of CDW is recycled though the figures show that 58 per cent is recycled.
This compares with levels of 99 per cent for Singapore and 95 per cent for the Netherlands and Germany. It is a mystery why Hong Kong has to send such colossal amounts of waste to landfill. But its good business for the likes of Veolia Environment and their subsidiaries and Sitra, which control waste management in Hong Kong.