HK legislators say no to mega incinerator plan

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    Excellent that the Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs refused to support the plans for Shek Kwu Chau incinerator, and extensions to landfills.

    Thanks to all who helped!

    Yet like some monster movie, where the beast falls to its knees after an attack, the incinerator plans are not finished. Much has gone into them – much planning etc; who knows how many contracts are signed or nearly signed; HK$23 billion [incinerator plus landfill extensions – the true cost of incinerator project] is a huge amount of money that many must feel they can get a share of.

    Plus Edward Yau may feel he has nowhere else to go, but to try and push it through.

    I see comments from some, such as Tanya Chan, saying still believe there's need for incineration.

    So, good that the three attempts at Judicial Review aim to proceed, to counter plans for incinerator by SKC, where sea is unfortunately zoned for use like this.

    Jim Middleton, of Clear the Air, believes we should call for Edward Yau's resignation. What do you think?

    To my mind, the way forward with waste under CY Leung would be more like New York: instead of deciding exactly what to do, call for proposals. [NYC has asked for waste to energy proposals that specifically exclude mass burn incineration; HK might simply call for proposals to help solve our waste issue.]

    – this would seem a lot to ask, given all the planing etc already; but sadly the planning process to date came out with an answer that seems crazy and irresponsible. Must be something worthwhile in there, though.

    With such international proposals, how to then have a committee that can really judge based on merits?

    Such a process would allow, say, Green Island Cement to participate (it would not be only potential company, as would be the case if govt requesting only its eco co-combustion process).

    Other alternatives can and surely should be advanced, to help show Edward Yau is wrong to claim that without incinerator we might have streets full of waste. [as below]

    Only Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Clearly popular, but I haven't seen too much by way of detail. Should this be by a company, maybe one from overseas with experience, which could help struggling operators at the Eco Park, and work with small scale collectors of cardboard etc?

    Plasma arc as substitute for incineration, but with real action on 3Rs. At least one company is willing to build a pilot plant.

    Other options? Should there be any?

    Anaerobic digestion seems a good way; but HK taking just baby steps. Prof Jonathan Wong, "waste expert" who seems ready to say whatever EPD wants, has done some research in this but hasn't been pushing for it, which seems curious.

    Here are excerpts from a S China Morning Post news item re the panel decision:

    The Environment Bureau has abandoned its HK$23 billion funding request for what it says is an urgently needed waste incinerator and landfill expansion after failing to gain the support of lawmakers from across the political spectrum yesterday.

    The controversial waste plans, which included building a waste incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau off the south coast of Lantau, will face uncertain delays when they are left to the next government to decide as requested by lawmakers at an environment panel meeting.

    Despite the government's warnings, one waste expert said Hong Kong would not immediately plunge into a waste crisis, but it would be wise for the city to start at least one landfill expansion to ease pressure.

    Panel members refused to support the bureau in filing its funding request to the public works subcommittee and Finance Committee.

    "Without the support of the panel, the current administration is unable to file the funding requests within this term and complete all the relevant processes," the bureau said.

    It said it was unfortunate that the plans, including the HK$15 billion waste incinerator and HK$8 billion for expanding landfills in Tseung Kwan O, North District and Tuen Mun, had not been backed by the panel despite intensive discussions.

    Bureau ditches HK$15b incinerator funding bid

    Request for financing abandoned after failure to gain support from lawmakers across political spectrum

    There have been some calls for Edward Yau to resign; a couple of days ago media reported on chief executive elect CY Leung critising him for doing little.

    In SCM Post yesterday, Lau appeared to have no understanding of opposition to incinerator, and even rather childishly angry that legislators weren't supporting it. Interview included:

    Yau said those politicians who delayed or disapproved of his plans should explain to the public why they would need to put up with more landfilling of waste equivalent to seven Exchange Square towers a year.

    "Will waiting a few more months solve the problem?" he asked. "Why do we have to wait? Is it just because of a single remark by the chief executive-elect? Is it because of the election? Or is it due to the fact Hong Kong has not achieved the highest recycling rate in the world … society deserves a reason why we have to wait."

    Yau said the city could not afford any further delay, as the quest for waste solutions had started more than a decade ago and there had been intensive discussion already.

    He warned that further delays might put Hong Kong in a similar situation to the Italian city of Naples, where insufficient waste facilities resulted in rubbish being dumped in the streets.

    "The longer we put it off, the longer we have to ask what method will we adopt, the more likely we will be of living the example of what Naples faced," he said.

    Yau admitted he had no contingency plan if the funding request for the HK$15 billion incineration project at Shek Kwu Chau was blocked. "Do we really have a plan B, when there is already a three-pronged strategy? Perhaps the plan B is just waiting to see the landfill becoming full. Everyone opposing our plan should ask themselves what is their plan B."

    Minister throws down incineration challenge; Edward Yau says lawmakers opposed to the government's waste reduction plans should explain why the city must wait longer for a solution

    – several people and groups have indeed submitted alternative plans, but Yau deaf to these: seems he's blinkered, unable to listen to people despite giving lip service to consultations.

    Note, too, that according to Wikipedia some of Naples' troubles with trash were blamed on mafia involvement in the city's waste collection. Surely Yau is not implying that HK has strong triad involvement in the business?



    As you'll gather from this letter which I sent S China Morning Post, not everyone was impressed with the legislators' stance:

    Environment Bureau, 'experts' ignore alternatives to waste incinerator

    Apr 28, 2012


    I found it interesting that Professor Poon Chi-sun, director of Polytechnic University's research centre for environmental technology and management, has remarked of the waste incinerator issue that the current discussion by lawmakers "has become politicised" and is "not rational" ("Two ways to burn our trash, both with flaws", April 22).

    This follows legislators' refusal to support the incinerator plan, and the Environment Bureau's withdrawal of its funding request. Yet the issue has long been politicised and irrational.

    In 2005, an incinerator was proposed as part of a comprehensive waste strategy introduced by the government. Though the strategy appeared rational, politics soon led to proposals being watered down or sidelined until incineration emerged as pivotal for the city's waste management.

    A proposed mega-incinerator was given the fancy-sounding title of "integrated waste management facility", even though it was not integrated and would be little but a glorified bonfire. Incredibly, a site selection process led to the preferred location being an artificial island to be built beside Shek Kwu Chau, in a beautiful coastal location that's a prime site for the globally endangered finless porpoise.

    Various reasons were given, among the more ludicrous being that the incinerator island would boost local tourism. Yet the real reason for preferring Shek Kwu Chau was surely political: there's no nearby major population centre with people who might protest.

    A rational debate over the incinerator would surely involve the Environment Bureau and its consultant giving a balanced view of the pros and cons of the project.

    Instead, information has been more akin to propaganda, with incineration touted as being near perfect – even though cases worldwide show there are abundant problems, including poisonous emissions and toxic ash – and alternatives derided or dismissed out of hand.

    Plasma gasification is among these alternatives. It has been left to incinerator opponents to uncover information on this and other options.

    Sadly, even waste "experts" receiving government funding have been far from immune from politicization, seeming too prone to support the incineration-focused policy under Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and too ready to downplay or provide disinformation about ways to treat trash without primitive bonfires.

    Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors


    Perhaps also of interest, some info I was sent after the letter appeared:

    Of the 97 articles published by Poon individually or with his students and/or colleagues in the last 24 years since 1988, not one concerned either moving grate incinerator or plasma gasification technology.  See link [where several papers cover possible uses of incinerator ash; not incineration itself]:


    Another letter in SCM Post:

    Tsang has poor track record

    Robert Lang said Hong Kong people should focus on the "good decisions" Donald Tsang Yam-kuen made during his time as chief executive, but he failed to list what they were ("Chief's perks of office well deserved", April 27).

    Leung Chun-ying, our leader-in-waiting, is already in the news for various reasons, ranging from his personal wealth to glimpses of what we might expect to see from him as chief executive.

    However, it already seems confidence in Mr Leung is high, as are the expectations of the people of Hong Kong.

    Mr Leung will not have very big boots to fill so it would seem all the right ingredients are there, but it remains to be seen whether they will be mixed into a government that listens to what people want instead of just doing things, regardless.

    The incinerator which was proposed for Shek Kwu Chau is a good example of bad government policy.

    The debacle over this planned project goes on. Thankfully, it has been stopped in its tracks for the time being, largely because of pressure from the residents of Lantau, the general public and various concern groups – a job well done by all.

    However, the burning question is how this cheap, outdated method of incineration got on the drawing board in the first place.

    There are much cleaner and more efficient methods available that produce energy in the process (gasification) and there are also more suitable locations for such a waste facility.

    If we do end up with an incinerator (very likely, given that we are a throwaway society), would the government consider land reclamation further south, into the South China Sea, so no one needs to be concerned about exhaust fumes from the plant? Shek Wu Chau is not the right place for an incinerator of any kind for reasons we are all aware of.

    Andrew Maxwell, Sai Kung

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