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Waste plans limited to incineration

Saturday, 30 August, 2014

Waste plans limited to incineration

I refer to the letter by Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection (“Government serious about tackling waste”, August 18) replying to my letter (“Sustainable disposal solution needed to tackle mounting waste”, July 26).

He used well-worn bureaucratese talking about “blueprints” and “initiatives” to manage Hong Kong’s waste “in the coming decade”.

He says nothing about what is being done now to encourage territory-wide waste separation and recycling. Where is the public education campaign on sorting waste at source? Why is only 0.02 per cent per year of Hong Kong’s rubbish collected in the so-called recycling bins? Why are most of the recyclables collected in the 26,000 bins still dumped in landfills? Why does Au have no accurate figures on the amount of waste recycled? Where is the cooperation among the Environmental Protection, Food and Environmental Hygiene and Housing departments to collect and sort domestic waste? To refute my “unsubstantiated assertions”, he fails to substantiate his own with statistics.

Instead, Au proclaims “strategies, targets and plans” for comprehensive waste management in the future. Similar “strategies, targets and plans”, declared by a previous environment secretary, have yet to be implemented.

Au trumpets the “Blueprint on sustainable use of resources 2013-2022”. It’s largely a rehash of a blueprint issued in 2005, “A policy framework for the management of municipal solid waste 2005-2014”, with strategies and targets for community-wide reuse, recovery and recycling of waste. Nine years later, we’re still waiting.

The Environment Bureau’s only major plan is the mega-incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau, from which toxic ash residue must be shipped across the busy harbour to be dumped in expanded landfills. The bureau has pro-incinerator roadshows and TV ads, instead of a media campaign to educate people on how to properly sort their refuse.

Since 2010, Au has championed this incinerator, paying lip service to waste separation and recycling. The “green community stations” are more window dressing.

After nearly a decade of failure to push anything other than incineration, how can we believe Au’s current “strategies, targets and plans” will lead to comprehensive waste management, especially if the incinerator gets funding? All our waste will then go into this plant, and there will be no incentive to reduce or recycle.

Throw refuse in black plastic bags, dump it in the incinerator and landfills; build more incinerators and expand landfills as needed. That is the bureau’s real waste-management plan, past, present and future.

Kim Chai, Lantau

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