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Residual waste cannot be eliminated


He presumably wants to sell German incinerators to Hong Kong ?

Environment and Sustainability


Mr. Wolfgang Ehmann
Executive Director

May 23, 2012

Residual waste cannot be eliminated

Your correspondents’ many commentaries on waste incineration are certainly well intended, but often miss the point and some statements claimed as fact remain unsubstantiated.

Firstly, the residue of the incineration process is not toxic sludge, as stated in one letter, but ashes, which can be used, for example, in building construction.

Second, the moving grate technology, unlike the plasma arc method, is proven and tested for large-scale incineration plants, like the one proposed to be constructed in Hong Kong.

Thirdly, recycling is often presented as the alternative to incineration.

This would be true only if a 100 per cent waste recovery rate was practically achievable.

Fourth, many readers pick on the administration as the main culprit for not having solved the problem long ago.

This is a rather low-hanging fruit to pick, as it conveniently overlooks the fact, that whatever initiatives the government may propose, they have to pass legislation and stakeholder scrutiny before they can be implemented.

The endless debate around the plastic bag levy is a shining example of just how tedious the process can be.

A financial burden is normally the main reason for public resistance against any such regulations, but in this case payment could easily be avoided by bringing your own bag. Still, it took three years to pass the levy into law.

How long will it take, then, to get a meaningful domestic waste charging scheme or waste electronic and electrical equipment regulations passed? To decide on a strategy to deal with its waste is a community effort.

Recovery and recycling are vital components of such a strategy, but there is no known live example, anywhere in the world, where residual waste is completely eliminated from the economic cycle.

It would be a great leap forward, if the people of Hong Kong recycled their waste as enthusiastically as the opponents of waste incineration do with their arguments against the latter.

Wolfgang Ehmann, Admiralty

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