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Incineration won’t destroy pollutants

As noted in previous letters to the editor, Elvis Au, assistant director of the Environmental Protection Department, has shown great bias in pushing plans for the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator. Yet during an RTHK radio show on April 25, his comments were even more skewed.

Asked about heavy metals in the ash, he said the technology would enable the complete destruction of these toxic materials.

This is a preposterous falsehood. As many a schoolchild will know, it took the energy of supernovas to create elements heavier than iron, which include toxic metals of concern with waste incinerators, such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury. Hence, they cannot be destroyed by incineration.

Instead, incinerators emit these along with particulates and a veritable cocktail of organic toxins – leading to serious health concerns, and documented cases of elevated levels of disease and deaths near incinerators.

Not only does Mr Au avoid mention of such research, but he also seems intent on rebranding the incinerator by calling it a waste-to-energy facility.

On the face of it, turning waste to energy seems a good idea, and Mr Au asserts the incinerator will power 100,000 households.

But much of Hong Kong’s waste is soggy rice and other food slops, which will not readily burn. So the incinerator will surely require fuel such as coal, or drying with electrical power.

Hong Kong deserves a far better waste policy, with real efforts in waste reduction and recycling, and trustworthy technology.

And Hong Kong deserves officials who have the willpower, passion and acumen to work with the community in protecting the environment.

Dr Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors

Source URL (modified on May 1st 2015, 4:30pm):

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