Face Off: Are incinerators the best waste management solution for Hong Kong?

Face Off: Are incinerators the best waste management solution for Hong Kong?

Each week, our two teenagers will debate a hot topic. This week ...

Lucinda Kam Wing-lam, 20, The University of Hong Kong

Incinerators, landfills and “recycling and reuse” are the three major measures for the Hong Kong government in dealing with waste. Among them, incinerators have been regarded as the best solution for waste management because it saves money on waste transportation and electricity generation.

In 2016 the World Bank reported that the average person produces almost 2kg of waste per day. Waste management has become increasingly complicated and difficult to handle. The introduction of incineration of waste is a way out of this headache.

Incineration saves a lot of money on transporting the wastes to landfills thus reduced the carbon footprint generated by vehicles by 10 per cent. Once cleaners have collected the produced wastes, they will drive the piles to one of the nearest incinerators located either in Kwai Chung, Lai Chi Kok, Kennedy Town or Mui Wo.

Unlike landfills, it only takes a few minutes or so for the waste to be totally destroyed. Toxic gases are sent to scrubbers which help remove all dangerous chemicals such as dioxins at a temperature of 850 degrees Celsius in two seconds. As a result, gases found near incinerators aren’t so dangerous to humans.

With the advancement of technology, incinerators not only help filter the toxic gases but also generate electricity. China Light Power (CLP) proved that burning 250 tonnes of waste each day can generate 6.5 megawatts of electricity, which saved an estimated HK$3 million per year of the electricity expense. On the contrary, ‘recycling and reuse’ requires a lot of manpower to separate, clean, and transporting waste before proceeding to the final reuse and recycle process.

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Charlotte Chong Hoi-kwo, 18, CCC Mong Man Wai College

Have you ever heard of the “4Rs”? What are they? I bet everyone has heard of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Replace but very few people will remember them. Most people nowadays do not adopt a green lifestyle. They produce large amount of rubbish, which as a result has caused us to run out of space in our landfills. Thus, people resort to building incinerators, which is, however, unwise.

In cities with limited land like Hong Kong, incinerators are a better approach for garbage management because it requires less space than a landfill. At the same time, with the advanced technology development, emissions of chemicals such as nano particles and dioxins are greatly reduced and can be used to generate electricity to power thousands of homes.

But despite the upside of incinerators, it is effective only when recycling is practised. Even if incinerators are built, if people keep producing 17,000 tonnes of garbage every day, we will still need landfills. That’s because the amount of rubbish produced is greater than the incinerators can consume. More importantly, as establishing incinerators with advanced technology is very expensive, it takes about 10 years to make it financially worthwhile.

Since we were young, we have been lectured to root the problem out, but we haven’t done the basics. The crux of the issue lies not on which method we should use, but on Hongkongers lack of green lifestyle. Rather than arguing which waste management method we should use, why don’t we reduce the problem at the source? Not only would it lower production cost, but it would also cut pollution, killing two birds with one stone. After all, prevention is better than cure.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Are incinerators the best waste management solution for Hong Kong?


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