Waste Recycling in Hong Kong (or lack thereof), and a note on China

 

One of this page’s incoming search terms was “the reasons why the hong kongers do not recycle”. Whoever typed that into Google, I’d like to buy you a beer.

Recycling rates are around 40%, but that still leaves more than 13,000 tons of MSW heading for landfills every day.

This startup proposes to recover the resources contained within municipal solid waste. We first separate out items such as WEEE, metal, glass, etc. for conventional recycling, then run the rest (called RFD or Refuse Derived Fuel) through our process which results in complete waste reduction and production of energy and industrial products. This is our proposal.

There are two key points in this discussion:

  1. Hong Kong people produce the most waste in the world.
  2. Hong Kong is just fumbling around with resource recycling, both the government and private industry.

According to this article Hong Kong’s landfills will be full by 2019. Three options have been considered:

  1. Expanding the largest landfill in Tseung Kwan O (by expand they mean dump into a nearby public park, seriously)
  2. Build a mass burn incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau island (almost passed environmental studies, the locals weren’t happy at all)
  3. Charge money to collect waste.

It looks like Hong Kong is going with charging for waste collection. This means Hong Kong isn’t addressing how to manage or recycle waste, they are only attempting to reduce the production of waste by charging people. Which of course relies on the assumptions that 1) people won’t find a way to avoid paying, 2) paying for waste will actually incentivize people to produce less waste (they may produce more since they are paying for it), and 3) people are capable of producing less waste. If any of these don’t happen, Hong Kong won’t have a solution to handle the waste.

The Hong Kong government has a choice. Hong Kong investors have a choice. They can continue ignoring the waste management problem/opportunity, following the mindset of America and end up like NYC, or they can get with the program and be like like Europe. So which will it be?

NYC
NYC paid $307 million last year to ship over 4 million tons of waste out of the city, this is what most big cities do once their landfills are full. This is likely what Hong Kong will do in 5 years. Assuming transportation costs are the same, Hong Kong will be doing the same in a few years.

A Note on China 
An interesting point in the China Daily article I linked to earlier is that “In China, the challenge is finding and transmitting clean energy as the country has limited clean energy resources.”  Keeping that in mind, consider that China also has a very large and growing waste problem, set to produce twice as much waste as the US by 2030 and being a primary contributor to global waste production increasing from 0.68 BILLION tons to 2.2 BILLION tons annually in as short amount of time. So, lets consider these two points:

  1. China has a problem locating renewable clean energy
  2. China has a huge waste problem

One problem seems like the solution to the other. Am I the only one seeing this?

Another Note on China
This article discusses the squeeze China’s coal power plants are putting on the water supply. Coal power plants use a lot of water. Xingergy microwave plasma gasification facilities produce clean, purified water (the moisture from the waste that isn’t decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen). Around 300 kg per ton of waste, not a lot, but at least we don’t use any water.

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