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What should we do with

Hong Kongs Waste?


(Geography)
By: Angus Lau 8A (13)
Teacher: Mr. Kelvin Sit
Supervisor: Mr. Richard
Millham

Would you want to live in an unsanitary, pungent smelling country? Obviously


not. However, this comes down to our key problem: waste. Waste, is a common
difficulty faced by affluent societies, when people can afford more products that
brings greater convenience. Hong Kong is no exception to this problem. Its waste
has rapidly shot upwards since 1986 because of the massive economic growth. This
engendered the disposal rate of the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to 1.30 kg per
person per day in 2012. (edp.gov) Even though the rates have decreased 0.13 kg
per person per day from its peak in 1993, the population of Hong Kong has
proliferated to about 1.1 million. (census2011.gov) This causes a lot of waste going
into landfills every day, but the three main ones, Tseung Kwan O (South), Ta Kwu
Ling (North) and Nim Wan (West) will all be filled by 2015, 2017 and 2019
respectively. However, there are many protests against the idea of building an
incinerator in Hong Kong, so what should we do with Hong Kongs waste?
Before we investigate the possible solutions on what we should do with Hong
Kongs waste, we should first investigate the different types of waste. Firstly,
introducing Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), the most common waste. There are
mainly three sources of MSW, including domestic solid waste, commercial solid
waste and industrial solid waste. Domestic solid waste comes from households and
public areas. Commercial solid waste comes from shops, restaurants, hotels, and
offices. Industrial solid waste is generated by all industries, but does not include
construction and demolition waste, chemical waste or other special waste. (edp.gov)
This kind of waste counts for 45 per cent of our total waste in Hong Kong and it is
mostly kept in landfills.
Secondly, food waste. The European Union Commission defines food waste
as food that is thrown away, either because they are not needed, or because they
must be thrown away by law. (eurlex.eu) The United States Environmental Protection
Agency defines food waste as "uneaten food and food preparation wastes from
residences and shops such as grocery stores, restaurants, or institutional cafeterias,
and industrial sources like employee lunchrooms". (Epa.gov.us)

The other less major types of wastes are construction waste, chemical waste
and clinical waste. Construction waste is anything generated as a result of
construction and then abandoned, regardless of whether it has been processed or
stockpiled. Chemical waste is defined by reference to a list of substances and
chemicals (reproduced in Appendix 1) that causes pollution or constitutes a danger
to health. Clinical waste means waste consisting of any substance, matter or things
belongs into the 5 categories: used or contaminated sharps, laboratory waste,
human and animal tissues, infectious materials and dressings.
However, even if there are that many kinds of trash, where does all our
unwanted trash go? To the landfill. At this day, there are 3 active landfills in Hong
Kong, West New Territories (WENT) Landfill; South East New Territories (SENT)
Landfill; and North East New Territories (NENT) Landfill. In Appendix 2 is the basic
information about the three landfills. As we can see, we all face a crisis, as the
Landfills in Hong Kong are starting to saturate, and the process would be hastier as
the SENT and NENT Landfills are filled and only the WENT Landfill is left. After all
the Landfills are saturated, we would have no place to store our trash, because this
is the only way to get rid of trash in Hong Kong.
However, why are Hong Kongs landfills starting to saturate? It is mainly
because of three reasons. Firstly, the population of Hong Kong is constantly
increasing; secondly, the disposal rate per capita is not decreasing significantly, and
most importantly, people protesting against expanding landfills, constructing
incinerators, or even the $33 million consultancy to review the Tuen Mun landfill
expansion plan. (scmp.com) Therefore, the Hong Kong government has no other
option but to wait for the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) for a new
budget proposal.
Unfortunately, with many people suggesting that Hong Kong people are
selfish, narrow-minded and believe in the motto Not in my backyard (scmp.com),
all the waste treatment facilities would not be built or extended. What people detest
about the incinerator is dioxin, which is released in the process of burning trash.
Dioxins are highly toxic chemicals that can cause reproductive and developmental
problems, and also cause cancer. (World health organisation.com) Actually, only a

trace, or none would be found in the flue gas because there is a gas treatment and
filtering system in the incinerator and it is only a perception from the people.
On top of that, another problem is the lack of time for building integrated
waste management facilities (IWMF). Waste management facilities include facilities
that provide the collection, transport, processing or disposal, managing and
monitoring of waste materials. There are many kinds of waste management facilities:
landfills, refuse transfer stations, chemical waste treatment centres, recycling
stations, composting plants (edp.gov), mechanical biological treatment plants, Envac
Automated Waste Collection Systems and incinerators. Moreover, only landfills,
mechanical biological treatment plants, and incinerators can really help store or get
rid of MSW. However, landfills face too many protests, and mechanical biological
treatment plants can only process 150 tonnes of trash everyday. Therefore, the only
option is the IWMF which consists of a thermal incinerator and a sorting and
recycling plant that would be able to process 3000 tonnes and 200 tonnes of trash
per day respectively, (epd.gov) with 6286 tonnes of MSW produced per day.
However, it takes at least 5 years to plan, build and operate the IWMF, assuming that
there would be no disturbance for the budget approval. Consequently, all the landfills
in Hong Kong would be saturated, and our city would be drowned in waste.
Due to the fact that the plan for building IWMF and the extension of the three
landfills were not accepted by the public and Legco, the only way now is source
reduction, consisting of a charging system, promotions, the 3Rs and the subsidy in
the recycling industry.
The charging system now is under consideration and consultancy in the
government. The principal of this system is the more you dispose, the more you pay,
and there are 3 ways to assess how much you use: by the measurement of water
consumption; the use of specialized garbage bags; and charge via management fee.
For the first method, the trash fee will be charged proportionally to the water
consumption rate, and the water authorities would collect the fee. For the second
method, the government would issue a kind of garbage bag, which the garbage truck
would only collect trash inside it. At the same time, the government would have to

minimize the number of trashcans on the streets and install monitoring systems to
prevent people from putting their waste in the public trashcans. For the last method,
the charge is in proportion to the total floor area and evenly distributed amongst each
flat, and the management company would collect it.
Another method to source reduction is through promotions. Due to the landfill
saturating, the government had to promote the message of source reduction,
through commercials, the News, leaflets, or mascots like the litterbug and most
importantly, lectures at schools or additional topics in the subject liberal studies to
make all citizens bear in mind that we have to be considerate of our own
environment.
On top of that, Reuse, Reduce and Recycle (3R) plays a critical role. The 3Rs
are derived from the EU Waste hierarchy. There are 5 options in the waste hierarchy,
Reduce, meaning to use less material in manufacture; Reuse, meaning to clean,
repair, refurbish items to transform into useful daily tools; Recycle, turning waste into
new products; Recovery, including anaerobic digestion, incineration with energy
recovery, gasification etcetera; Disposal, putting waste in landfills or incinerators
without energy recovery. (andrewmartlow.com) In Hong Kong, it has mostly only
been doing recycling and disposal, as seen from the increase of recycling bins, and
from dumping everything into the landfill. However, as the crisis approaches, there
have been changes. Now, the government has proposed a campaign called Food
Wise, to encourage Hong Kong businesses/organizations in adopting measures to
reduce food waste within their establishment. (Foodwise.com) This means that the
government encourages people to reduce more waste, which is one step further into
saving the environment.
Last but not least, subsidies for the recycling industry. Even though there are
relatively more recycling bins around in Hong Kong, 99% of our local materials to be
recycled are exported for further overseas processing (mainly China), so our local
waste recycling industry is limited to the primary phase of processing: recovery, bale
and exports. However, this has little economic value, and is only able to create few
job opportunities. Also, being too dependent on exports makes the industry
vulnerable to external economic factors, such as the global financial tsunami in 2008,

which caused the waste paper price plummeting from HK$2,000 to HK$700 per
tonne

and

making

the

process

of

recycling

profitless

and

unavoidable.

(greenpower.org) Therefore, with this huge problem in the recycling industry, the only
way to save the industry is for the government to produce subsidies so people could
open more Eco Parks and would solve the problem of waste exportng.
In addition, we should have the " Producer Responsibility Scheme", such as
implementing laws making it compulsory for producers to recollect their produced
waste products. Alternatively, there can be extra charges on certain products to
cover costs of recycling and collection. (greenpower.org) The main advantage of the
scheme is to ensure importers; distributors, retailer and consumers share the
responsibility for recycling.
Moreover, even if the extension of the landfill faced protests from the Tseung
Kwan O residents or encourages source reduction, there is no option left for
temporary solutions, as other projects take too long to build. Also, even if we have
incinerators or combustion plants, it only reduces the trash to about ten per cent of
their original waste, and the ten per cent still has to go to the landfill. Still, there are
some things that the government might do to improve the situation of the landfills.
Due to the 1120 complaints by residents in Tseung Kwan O saying that there
are nauseating smells coming from the 3600 garbage trucks that go in and out of the
landfill, the government decided that the new garbage trucks should all be fully
enclosed, so that the nauseating smell in Wan Po road would go away. Secretary for
the Environment Wong Kam Sing said that the vehicles should have a fully enclosed
tailgate cover as well as a wastewater sump tank. These features can enhance the
environmental performance of the trucks and minimise environmental impact.
(highbeam.com) On top of that, he said that the government proposed that there
would be a nine-month subsidy for the people who would buy the new fully enclosed
garbage truck.
Furthermore, the Tseung Kwan O residents complained about the traffic jams
caused by garbage trucks. As Sai Kung District Council member Alfred Kan Siu Kei
said, "Huge garbage trucks block roads, causing traffic jams and posing threats to

pedestrian safety, more so for children and the elderly." (standard.com) Therefore, to
make it more convenient for drivers to go into the area, the government should
create a traffic lane that is only for the garbage trucks.
Additionally, due to some misunderstandings about the possible leakage of
dioxin and air pollutants in the IWMF, the government has to find ways to solve this
problem. They could have lectures and show examples of places that have modern
IWMF systems, like Taiwan and Japan, which are next to housing estates and
provide electricity to power recreation facilities nearby. The most amazing one is the
Bei-tou incinerator in Taiwan next to residential areas, where there is a revolving
restaurant in the middle of the chimney. Another way is to organise tours for people
to go on trips and visit these IWMF facilities that are fruitful and informative
expedition. In addition, the government could give priorities to use recreation
facilities or compensations like decreasing the electricity fee for the people who live
near the IWMF.

After the brief introduction of the different kinds of waste, what are the
problems we face in waste disposal, and the possible solutions to solve this problem,
the writer gainsays that even though that people, staunchly oppose the fact that the
landfills need to be expanded and IWMFs need to be built, it still has be done,
because there would still be a lot of waste, even if we do source reduction, and the
ten per cent of residues from the IWMF would still go to the landfill. These are the
steps we have to do in order to prevent Hong Kong from becoming a city of waste.
Conclusively, the writer staunchly concurs that we should implement source
reduction, extend the landfill, and build the IWMF to extend the life of the landfill.

Bibliography
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2014.
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(A102). Population and Average Annual Growth Rate, 1981 - 2011 (A102). Census
and Statistics department, 21 February 2012. Web. 5 February 2014.
3. Unknown author. Municipal Solid Waste. GovHK. GovHK, January 2014. Web. 5
February 2014.
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Web. 5 February 2014.
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(Glossary F)". Terms of Environment. United States Environmental Protection
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2014.
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2014.
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February 2014.

Appendix 1
List of chemicals or substances that are chemical waste if present
Any substance to which the Antibiotics Ordinance (Cap. 137) applies
Asbestos
Dangerous drugs (as defined in the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (Cap. 134))
Dangerous Goods, category 2, NES
Dangerous Goods, category 6, NES

Dangerous Goods, category 9, NES

Location
Site area (Hectare)
Capacity (Mm3)
Waste intake 2012
(Per day in tonnes)
Operation Life
Waste type

WENT Landfill
Nim Wan, Tuen
Mun
110
61
6400

SENT Landfill
Tai Chik Sha,
Tseung Kwan
O
100
43
4800

2018/19
MSW

2014/15
MSW, special

NENT Landfill
Ta Kwu Ling,
New Territorries
61
35
2700
2016/17
MSW, special

Di
be
nz
of
ur
an
s
Di
ox
in
s
P

esticides (as defined in the Pesticides Ordinance (Cap. 133))


Poisons (as defined in the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance )
Polychlorinated biphenyls

Reference: EPD.gov
http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/waste/guide_ref/files/guide_e.pd
f

Appendix 2

Reference: EPD.gov
http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/waste/prob_solutions/
msw_went.html
http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/waste/prob_solutions/
msw_sent.html
http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/waste/prob_solutions/
msw_nent.html