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Rubbish effort: Hong Kong environment bureau slammed for slow work on food waste disposal

Audit Commission calls for more timely action as landfills face increased pressure

Government auditors have given the Environment Bureau a grilling for not taking timely action to address problems arising from food waste disposal, which has risen 13 per cent over the last decade, and told it to be more accurate when reporting project information in the future.

The Audit Commission criticised the government’s “piecemeal” efforts to solve find ways to dispose food waste and for taking too long to implement a charging scheme for municipal solid waste that was already eight years behind the original target.

The bureau was also slammed for overstating the treatment quantity of a food waste pilot plant in Kowloon Bay and a significant project cost underestimation for phase one of an organic waste treatment facility in Lantau Island. The latter ultimately led to a delay in tendering and thus its commissioning, adding four more years of pressure to local landfills.

A major problem seemed to be a lack of public and private sector interest in the waste reduction campaigns, such as the Food Wise Charter in which only four of 12 invited government departments ended up taking part as of June.

Government bodies such as the Correction Services Department and Hospital Authority also saw some of their institutions generating high quantities of food waste per day.

The amount of food waste per capita disposed at the city’s prison facilities, for example, ranged from 0.02 to 1.61kg, meaning some institutions had generated an even higher per capita disposal rate than the city’s per capita average for municipal solid waste.

Some of the authority’s hospitals such as Grantham Hospital and Kowloon Hospital were also showing a wide range of high food waste generation per inpatient, between 0.06 and 0.58kg daily.

The watchdog urged the bureau to strengthen efforts to encourage higher participation in its food waste recycling and reduction schemes and to speed up implementation of a waste charge, which would help reduce some 324 tonnes of food waste per day.

“Audit has recommended that the pertinent bureau’s [sic] and departments should strengthen efforts in implementing the municipal solid waste charging scheme and Food Wise Campaign, and make improvements in related areas,” the report read.

It also urged the bureau to “make reasonable cost estimates in implementing a works project in future so the government could earmark sufficient funding”.

The city generated 5.49 million tones of municipal solid waste in 2013, of which two thirds were disposed of at landfills and the rest recovered for recycling. About 25 per cent of all municipal solid waste is food waste.
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