Friday, 20 April 2012

No! to the Skek Kwu Chau incinerator!

My letter to the South China Morning Post...
UPDATE: Who knew one letter could change government policy (heh!).  Very next day, April 21, we have the headline, "Bureau ditches $HK15 billion incinerator funding bid".
Back to the letter of 20 April:
Environment Minister Edward Lau asks “why do we have to wait” for funding of his Shek Kwu Chau waste incinerator. What is the opponents’ Plan B, he asks. [article below the fold]
Well, there are simple answers:
We have to wait because we want the government to consider the better Plan B options that have already been proposed by SKC opponents and which should rightly be Plan A options.
These include plasma gas pyrolosis which is approved for use in Europe and North America.  This technology has minimal toxic emissions, is more efficient in creating recyclable fuel and other materials, takes up less space, is less unsightly, and quicker yet no more expensive to build in processing an equivalent amount of waste.  Green Island Cement proposes Eco co-combustion (“Green Island waste system is cheaper option to SKC incinerator”, Letters April 17) which uses solid waste to make cement with much less carbon dioxide than traditional methods. [Letter underneath the Yau article, below the fold]. 

Yet Yau has ignored these in his haste to get money for his outdated, dirty and unsightly technology.
Instead of using the opportunity of an exclusive interview with the Post to discuss these options, Yau merely blusters on with his one idée fixe, and tries to bully us with scare tactics: that we will be like Naples if we don’t immediately fund his dirty, destructive and inferior project (has Yau not heard that the Mafia was at the centre of Naples’ rubbish mess?)
What I would like to see is an independent comparison of three or four technologies, including Yau’s baby.  Comparing the capital cost, the on-going costs, the environment cost and the cost savings of outputs (such as GIC’s side-benefit of cheaper cement from the solid waste).
We surely need some waste management solution.  Just not this one.  And don’t kid us that another year will turn us into a Neapolitan garbage mountain.  It won’t.
Wake up Mister Yau, and give us the options, not more bluster and bullying.
Peter F, etc.

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

Lawmakers opposing the government's waste incineration plans owed the public an explanation on why a city facing a mounting waste crisis must wait longer for a solution - and should offer their practical alternatives - the environment minister says.

In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Edward Yau Tang-wah said the waste issue deserved rational and objective discussion but had been politicised as major political parties expressed reservations about it.
But he refrained from saying if chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying had meddled in his waste policy after Leung announced a "zero" quota for mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong private hospitals from next year. Both policies have implications for the transition of the old and new administrations and legislatures.
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 also said he had never heard of instructions from the chief executive-elect to halt the projects. He would not say if he had met Leung on the issue, but stressed that Leung's platform focused on waste reduction, as the current policy did, and did not exclude incineration. "It is a task of necessity no matter who is in charge," said Yau, adding that he "hoped and was confident" that the next administration would respect the fact.
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.
While the government was willing to give more in-depth explanations for the need for the facilities, site selection for the incinerator and its waste reduction policies, Yau said lawmakers should explain to the public why they must wait for the government's multi-pronged waste solution that includes incineration, landfill and recycling.
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."
Yau said there was no magic wand for the situation as relying solely on waste reduction was unrealistic. Even Germany, whose recycling rate was now more than 60 per cent, still relied on incineration. He said the limited capacity of the first incinerator meant only 17 per cent of the city's waste would be burnt, with the remainder needing other forms of disposal, including landfill.
He also believed it was impractical to build the incinerator after waste charging was introduced. Yau felt encouraged that more than half of the people in a public consultation on charging supported the idea, but did not commit himself to a road map or timetable on it, only agreeing to take the issue further. He refused to say if he had been approached to stay in the next government or if he had any interest in doing so.

Green Island waste system is cheaper option to Shek Kwu Chau incinerator

Edwin Lau notes ("Costly incinerator will be a waste of money", April 2) that the government has opted for a very expensive solution to Hong Kong's waste management problem by choosing to build an incinerator on reclaimed land at Shek Kwu Chau. I could not agree more.

According to media reports, the government is seeking nearly HK$15 billion to fund the construction of this incinerator.
For the past decade, Green Island Cement has proposed using the Eco-Co-Combustion System, a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly waste management solution for the treatment of rubbish. The system would treat municipal solid waste and use it as fuel at our cement plant. Due to synergies with our plant, this system would only cost HK$4 billion upfront, or 27 per cent of the government's spending for its proposed plant.
Extensive studies have demonstrated that emissions would be significantly less than the limits set by the government. Furthermore, with municipal solid waste being used to replace at least 40 per cent of coal used in the cement plant, there would be a net improvement in total emissions.
Any disturbance to the environment and community would also be minimised as we could use our existing cement plant site and no additional land or premises would be required. And, unlike the government's proposal, which would generate residue ash to be dumped in our landfills, our system would use the ash as clinker to manufacture cement.
Despite the obvious economic and environmental benefits of our proposal, the government has refused to give Green Island Cement a chance to help with Hong Kong's waste management problem. We hope that the government will reconsider the cost-effectiveness as well as environmental and community friendliness of our system.
Don Johnston, executive director, Green Island Cement