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Waste companies and government guilty of obstructive inertia

Friday, 19 September, 2014

I write in reference to Elvis Au’s letter “Waste already transported by sea [1]”, (August 27).

Gustave Flaubert, the famous French author, wrote that “Le bon Dieu est dans le detail” – God is in the detail. The phrase has also been attributed to the French architect Le Corbusier and the modern American-German architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

A deliberate variation on the phrase is “The Devil is in the detail”, meaning it is easy to come up with a grand overall plan for something, but difficult to justify that plan when all the detailed questions show up.

In the context of waste management, Ségolène Royal, the French minister for ecology, sustainable development and energy, recently stated that incineration is an obsolete technology and we should be moving towards a zero-waste society.

French multinationals Veolia Environnement and SITA – a subsidiary of Suez Environnement – are effectively a waste duopoly in Hong Kong. In France, the official waste “valorisation”, or the value creation rate from waste recycling, for these two companies is said to be around 70 per cent. By comparison, in Hong Kong the figure for the same companies is around 0.25 per cent.

Their global slogans translate as “making waste into a resource” and “global but local”. They and Au need to explain why these slogans don’t apply in Hong Kong. Judging by local figures, their slogan should be “do nothing at all”.

Hong Kong is at the bottom of the world table in recycling municipal solid waste, lower than many developing countries, making it the most wasteful city in the world.

Why is this the case, Mr Au? Who is responsible and accountable?

Premier Li Keqiang has forcefully stated that officials who obstruct progress by doing nothing are guilty of a form of corruption. The waste situation here is a prime example of such obstructive inertia.

The detail is revealing. Veolia and SITA on the commercial side, together with the Environmental Protection Department on the government side, are the primary vested financial interests in waste management in Hong Kong.

How much are waste management contracts worth each year, Mr Au? Who is in charge of the consortia favoured for all the proposed waste infrastructure projects in the city? Let everyone guess before you selectively reply.

Serafina Cheung So-hing, secretary, Anesidora Nature and Eco Education Association

dynamco Sep 19th 2014

We cannot have a Zero Waste policy without legislation
We have no source separation of waste legislation
We have no Govt provided collection system for recycled items which are currently voluntarily separated at source
The Govt intends to charge for waste collection without installing the two above measures so your nicely separated recyclables will get charged for & lumped in with the rest of the trash
Govt wants to spend money on ‘Green’ education centres in all districts instead of a big stick legislation
Recyclable items contaminated by HKG’s ultra wet food waste are useless – HKG deliberately ignores the advice of CIWEM’s worldwide policy on the use of the sewage system to handle food waste
Flawed ‘Blueprints’ are all wind no action
We have no method to handle remaining non recyclable construction waste that must be buried- yet Govt was offered a FREE 150,000 tpa Plasma plant that could destroy this , but refused it
HKG local recycling figures are fake & include transit import waste from overseas that passes thru HK port enroute China
All in all a retrograde disaster with Burn ‘n Bury policies
The waste collection companies cited are just using the system to get rich + the system is broken

Since Santa Monica resident Ms Loh is fully aware of California’s 77% recycling rate  and legislation it is ‘strange?’ that no such legislation is forthcoming here

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