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Incinerator ultimately needed: Under Secretary

Waste technology will alleviate pollution, not make it worse: Loh

Under Secretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai on Monday told China Daily’s Asia Leadership Roundtable that people tend to have wrong impression about incinerator, which is expected to alleviate the city’s waste disposal problem. She stressed that an incinerator ultimately is needed to deal with different types of waste produced in the city.

An academic agreed with Loh, saying an incinerator is helpful as long as garbage is sorted properly before being incinerated.

“People say, ‘do you have to build some kind of treatment facilities?’ I dare not to use the word ‘incineration’, because the word in Hong Kong somehow generates ideas of some black-smoke-and-dioxin-spilling factories. This is in fact not the case,” said Loh.

Currently, with a 48 percent recycling rate, 13,500 tons of solid waste daily are shipped to landfills for burial.

“Most people don’t realize the sludge treatment plant being built in Tuen Mun is an incinerator. It is incineration technology. For those of you who don’t know yet, it is also going to (look like) a spa,” said Loh.

Loh said the “beautifully designed” plant is expected to be finished by the end of 2013 and encouraged the public to visit the location and perhaps to acquire “a new concept about what waste treatment can mean in Hong Kong”.

Nevertheless, Loh said the government is going to have to build “a whole range of hardware to deal with the waste” that we are not able to reuse or recycle.

Professor Johnny Chan Chung-leung, dean of the School of Energy and Environment at City University of Hong Kong, said the public should take responsibility to reduce waste in the city rather than blaming the government for the problem, while at the same time expecting the authorities to take sole responsibility for solving it. Chan said he had no objection to building an incinerator when it is needed, but he adds the public needs to join in efforts to reduce the waste at the source and sort garbage before it is incinerated.

According to government’s figures, each Hong Kong resident generates 1.36 kilograms daily domestic waste, at least 36 percent more than Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo.

“The biggest problem is that before an incinerator is built, we should already sort out what can be incinerated and what cannot. Even with the advanced technology, it is fairly important that the gas coming out can be quite different and clean if we sort out the trash,” said Chan.

Chan also described waste disposal charges as right and necessary for reducing waste at the source.

Last week, the government unveiled a series of policies aimed at cleaning up the city. Those measures include a HK$10 billion program to lure owners of old diesel trucks drivers to abandon their vehicles. Old diesel engines are Hong Kong’s biggest source of roadside air pollution. In the meantime, a retirement age of 15 years will be set for newly registered commercial diesel trucks.

On a radio program on Monday, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the government will have a blueprint for waste management by the end of March. Wong said though the government will take the incinerator as a last resort, it would be irresponsible for the government to rule out an incinerator as a viable solution.

(HK Edition 01/22/2013 page1

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