PLC Paper No. CB(1)164
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration
and cleared with the Chairman)
Ref: CB1/PL/EA/1

LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of meeting
held on Tuesday, 6 May 1997, at 10:30 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon Christine LOH Kung-wai (Chairman)
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon MOK Ying-fan

Members absent :

    Dr Hon John TSE Wing-ling (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Edward S T HO, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP

Public officers attending :

All items
Mr Bowen LEUNG, JP
Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands
Mr Rob LAW
Director of Environmental Protection
Mr Benjamin TANG
Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands

Item IV
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) (2)
Mr Benny WONG
Assistant Director of Environmental Protection
(Waste Facilities)
Officer in Charge (Facilities Planning)
Environmental Protection Department

Item V
>Miss Joey LAM
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)(1)
Mr Elvis W K AU
Principal Environmental Protection Officer
(Territory Assessment)
Senior Conservation Officer (Ecological Assessment)
Agriculture and Fisheries Department
Conservation Officer (Ecological Assessment)
Agriculture and Fisheries Department

Clerk in attendance:

Miss Odelia LEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Ms Sarah YUEN
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)1

I Date of next meeting and items for discussion

(List of outstanding items for discussion (1996-97) tabled)

Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next regular meeting of the Panel scheduled for 3 June 1997 -

  1. Marine debris;
  2. Pollution of Shing Mun River; and
  3. Demographic projections (all non-Panel members would be invited to participate in the discussion of this item).

Members noted that a special meeting would be held on 20 June 1997 to discuss the Trade Effluent Surcharge (TES) Scheme in the light of public comments on the final report of its review.

II Information papers issued since last meeting

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)1364, 1397 and 1493/96-97)

Members noted the following papers issued since the last Panel meeting held on 10 April 1997 -

  1. Pamphlet on the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Workshop on the Impacts of Destructive Fishing Practices on the Marine Environment;
  2. Marine Debris Survey Report prepared by the Hong Kong Marine Conservation Society;
  3. A letter from the Transport Branch regarding the Panel’s request for inclusion of environmental considerations in the Branch’s performance pledge; and
  4. Information paper from the Administration on electricity transmission network.

III Waste reduction

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1451/96-97(01) and the Consultation Paper on the Draft Waste Reduction Plan For Hong Kong)

The Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (SPEL) made a few introductory remarks on the draft Waste Reduction Plan (the Plan). He pointed out that one of the unfortunate by-products of Hong Kong’s economic success had been the sharp increase in the amount of waste it produced. As a result, landfills were filling up much faster than originally expected. Identifying sites for new landfills would be difficult given the many competing demands for Hong Kong’s limited land resources. There was therefore need for early implementation of the Plan whose key objectives were to reduce the amount of waste requiring disposal, to prolong the life of landfills and to reduce the growing costs involved in transporting, treating and disposing of waste.

The Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) then briefed members on details of the Plan. Members noted that by adopting a waste management hierarchy comprising, in order of desirability: avoid waste; minimise waste; maximise recovery, reuse and recycling of waste; reduce bulk; and finally dispose, the Plan aimed at reducing municipal waste by 40% by year 10 after the implementation of the Plan. Waste avoidance, minimisation and recycling would account for 20% of the targeted cuts. The rest would be reduced by waste-to-energy incineration and composting of organic waste. The reduction of municipal waste would prolong the life of landfills by four years. By also proposing to reduce the quantity of construction and demolition (C&D) waste delivered to landfills by 70% through the provision of public dumping outlets and other waste reduction measures, the life of landfills could be further extended by seven years. In this way, the need to identify landfill sites would be postponed until 2010. Based on target reduction levels, the annual savings the Plan would bring by avoiding costs associated with the collection, treatment and disposal of wastes would approach $250 million in 2007.

Hong Kong’s place in the international arena

Members referred to Figure 3.2 of the Consultation Paper, which gave an international perspective of waste reduction measures, and expressed concern that Hong Kong might be lagging behind in this area in the international arena. In response, SPEL and the Assistant Director of Environmental Protection (Waste Facilities) made the following points -

  1. The effectiveness of many of the policy measures adopted by other countries had yet to be reviewed and their application to Hong Kong had to be studied carefully. For example, the complexity of producer responsibility schemes might warrant serious consideration before introduction. There was also need to consider the introduction of recycling credits schemes carefully to ensure they would not go against World Trade Organisation regulations. Figure 3.2 was thus only intended for reference purposes and mainly covered countries in the region.
  2. It was important that while drawing on overseas experience, the Plan should take into consideration Hong Kong’s specific conditions and limitations, especially the shortage of land and the need to accommodate views expressed by the local community and trades. Although Hong Kong seemed to be lagging behind in the international arena, there were indeed commendable initiatives from the local trades in adopting waste reduction measures. For example, in the commercial and industrial sector, over 50% of waste was already recovered. As a result, focus of waste reduction had always been placed on voluntary agreements in the past.

Targets of the Plan

In reply to members’ queries on the proposed timetable and targets of the Plan, representatives of the Administration supplemented the following details and figures -

  1. Regular evaluation and monitoring of progress was a feature of the Plan. Apart from annual reports on progress in different sectors, major reviews were proposed in year four and year eight of the Plan to enable detailed evaluation to be done and, if necessary, to redirect and re-focus efforts. Progress of the Plan would also be readjusted accordingly.
  2. Due to increased availability of regional public dumps, the amount of C&D waste requiring disposal at landfills had dropped considerably from 15,000 tonnes per day in 1995 to only 7,500 tonnes in 1996. However, it was estimated that the quantity of C&D waste that had to be disposed of at landfills would nonetheless increase to 10,000 tonnes per day in 2007. The proposed restrictions on land reclamation might also affect the management strategy of C&D waste, whose major outlet was reclamation. Notwithstanding such developments, the Civil Engineering Department had already commissioned a consultancy study to review the public dumping programme and strategy. The study would, among other things, explore ways to reuse and recycle C&D waste; assess the need for more intermediate sorting plants; and examine the practicability of changes to construction site practices to avoid and minimise waste generation. These measures taken together should reduce C&D waste to 3,200 tonnes per day in 2007.
  3. It was estimated that Hong Kong would need to dispose of 13,000 tonnes of municipal waste per day in 2007. With successful implementation of the proposed measures, the amount could be reduced by 40%, i.e., to 7,800 tonnes per day, bringing it back to the 1995 level. In setting this target, the Administration had taken into consideration associated risks, the public’s willingness to co-operate and the population growth to 8 million in 2007 as projected by the Census and Statistics Department.

Policy approach

Members in general supported the integrated waste reduction strategy proposed in the Plan, in particular the proposal to reduce the volume of residual waste needing final disposal by incineration. However, they had doubts as to the effectiveness of a voluntary rather than a mandatory approach to tackling the territory’s mounting waste problem, using market-driven partnerships with the private sector. They opined that a combination of positive encouragement together with enforcement of legal measures would be more effective than voluntary measures alone. For this reason, they proposed that legislation and enforcement mechanisms should be set up concurrently with voluntary initiatives to provide the appropriate level of motivation.

In response, SPEL pointed out that as outlined in Chapter 3 of the Consultation Paper, the proposed integrated waste reduction strategy involved not only voluntary approach but a combination of the following approaches: education and publicity, partnership vs. mandatory, fiscal incentives and disincentives, building on existing strengths and bulk waste reduction. Moreover, the voluntary approach had the following advantages -

  1. A voluntary approach that encouraged participation through government and non-government partnership would allow greater flexibility in implementing measures than would be allowed under mandatory systems. As a result, programmes implemented would be more acceptable to the public, and the industrial and commercial sectors.
  2. Partnership measures could also be implemented more efficiently than mandatory controls, which could take time to put in place because of the need to prepare clear and precise empowering legislation. The legislation could also give rise to controversy which would have to be resolved before implementation. It was thus recommended that voluntary schemes should be implemented first while the need for legislation be considered in parallel.
  3. Good public education and preferential purchasing schemes that favoured environmentally friendly products would provide additional incentives for businesses to voluntarily cut waste without the need for legislation. As in the long run companies would get more savings and benefits, they would be willing to play a major role in waste reduction.

The provision of financial incentives or disincentives

1. Members had different views as regards the provision of financial incentives or disincentives as part of the Plan. Some found it necessary that imported waste and industries that produced more waste should be targeted for specific actions or charges. Others opined that the Government should carefully consider the impact of the financial implications of the Plan on the public, and should avoid giving the public the wrong impression that the Plan was aimed at raising revenues.

2. In response, SPEL emphasised the following points -

  1. Waste reduction should be the responsibility of all sectors of Hong Kong community, including Government, commerce, industry and individual citizens. Any measures or policies proposed or adopted should not discriminate against any individual sector of the community. Likewise, as waste was mainly generated locally, no measure should discriminate against imported waste.
  2. The Administration had no intention to derive revenues from the Plan. It also recognised the need to exercise care in introducing fiscal disincentives. In fact, most of the measures proposed in the Plan did not involve charges.

In summing up the discussion, SPEL stressed that the Panel had all along been kept updated of the commissioning, progress and findings of the Waste Reduction Study. The Draft Plan had incorporated members’ views and the feedback from the first stage consultation on the Study’s recommendations. Upon completion of the second stage consultation that would run till 30 August 1997, the Administration would consider any further opinions expressed and consult the Panel again with a view to finalise the plan for publication.

Members agreed to further discuss the Plan at the Panel meeting on 3 June 1997.

IV Technical Memorandum on Environmental Impact Assessment

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)1451/96-97(02) and (03))

The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) (1) briefed members on the Administration’s paper on the draft Technical Memorandum (TM) on environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. Members noted that the TM gave the criteria for assessment and set out the guidelines for assessment methodologies, on the review of the adequacy of EIA reports, and for environmental monitoring and audit requirements under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance. The Administration aimed to table the draft TM to the Legislative Council on 14 or 21 May 1997 and have it passed within this Legislative session.

Members raised no questions on the draft TM. The Chairman found it very well drafted and commended the good efforts of the Administration in preparing it.

The meeting ended at 11:50 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
21 August 1997

Last Updated on 18 August 1998