Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1)935
(These minutes have
been seen by the

Ref: CB1/PL/EA

Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 19 December 1997, at 8:30 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Dr Hon Mrs TSO WONG Man-yin (Chairman)
Hon LAU Kong-wah (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Henry WU
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public officers attending :

All items

Acting Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)

Acting Director of Environmental Protection

Item IV

Mr Benny WONG
Assistant Director (Waste Facilities)
Environmental Protection Department

Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Facilities Planning)
Environmental Protection Department

Mr Conrad P K LAM
Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Special Waste Facilities)
Environmental Protection Department

Mr Patrick C K LEI
Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Waste Policy and Services)
Environmental Protection Department

Mr PO Pui-leong
Assistant Director (Environmental Health)1
Urban Services Department

Mr TSANG Nim-tong
Senior Staff Officer (Public Health)1
Urban Services Department

Mr CHAN Ping-kwong
Assistant Director (Environmental Health Services)
Regional Services Department

Ms Rhonda LO
Senior Staff Officer (Cleansing Services)
Regional Services Department

Item V

Mr Danny TSUI
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)3

Mr Elvis W K AU
Acting Assistant Director (Environmental Assessment and Noise)
Environmental Protection Department

Clerk in attendance :

Miss Odelia LEUNG,
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)1

Staff in attendance :

Ms Connie SZE-TO,
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)1

I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting

(PLC Paper No. CB(1)585)

The minutes of the joint meeting with the Panel on Health Services held on 24 October 1997 were confirmed.

II.Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2.Members agreed to discuss the following subjects at the next Panel meeting to be held on Friday, 16 January 1998, at 8:30 am -

  1. Trade Effluent Surcharge Scheme; and

  2. Landfill Charging Scheme.

(Post-meeting note: With the concurrence of the Chairman, the Panel meeting was re-scheduled for Friday, 23 January 1998, at 10:45 am and the subject of control over importation of wastes was included in the agenda.)

III.Information papers issued since last meeting

(PLC Paper No. CB(1)598 - A publication entitled "Hoi Ha Wan";

PLC Paper No. CB(1)615 - Quarterly Operations Report No. 9 of the Sewage Services Trading Fund)

3.Members noted the captioned information papers issued since last meeting.

IV.Overall waste management strategies

(PLC Paper No. CB(1)665(01))

4.The Assistant Director (Waste Facilities), Environmental Protection Department (AD/WF) gave a visual presentation on the management strategies for different types of wastes in Hong Kong which were detailed in the discussion paper. He highlighted that the next phase of the overall waste management strategies was waste reduction and the Administration was formulating appropriate strategies to ensure Hong Kong's sustainable development in the next century.

The overall waste management strategies

5.A member criticised the Administration for wavering between incineration and landfilling for disposal of wastes and failure to map out comprehensive and long-term waste management strategies for tackling the growing quantity of wastes in Hong Kong. He opined that the Administration should make reference to experiences in densely populated countries like Japan and expedite the introduction of modern waste-to-energy incineration.

6.AD/WF explained that landfilling and incineration were two major methods for disposal of wastes in Hong Kong until the late 1980s. In recognition of the environmental problems associated with old landfills and old-style incinerators, such as emission of hazardous gases, polluting liquids, dust, acidic gases and carcinogenic substances, and the growing quantity of waste, in particular construction wastes which were not suitable for disposal by incineration, the 1989 Waste Disposal Plan recommended an initial waste disposal strategy based on three large state-of-the-art strategic landfills. Whilst Japan mainly relied on incineration for disposal of wastes, landfilling was still required for final disposal after combustion. Lately, emission of carcinogenic substances from existing urban incinerators had become a growing concern in Japan. AD/WF advised that since advanced waste-to-energy incinerators could reduce the emission of toxic pollutants to acceptable levels in compliance with modern environmental standards, and that the technology had become more mature in recent years, the Administration started in 1994 to explore the technology of waste-to-energy incineration for disposal of municipal wastes under the study on waste reduction. A 18-month feasibility study was commissioned in September 1997 to examine the environmental impacts, identify suitable sites and assess the cost implications. The feasibility study was scheduled for completion by 1999 and the Administration estimated that given the complexity and size of the projects it would take about eight years to provide waste-to-energy incineration facilities in Hong Kong.

7.Regarding the long-term solution for disposal of clinical wastes and animal carcasses, AD/WF said that the Administration proposed in 1995 to build a centralized incineration facility for the disposal of these wastes. The proposal was withdrawn as members of the former LegCo had reservations over its cost-effectiveness. Whilst the Administration would explore the feasibility of disposing of clinical wastes and animal carcasses by co-incineration or co-location with the waste-to-energy incinerators in the long-run, interim measures had to be considered as the present ways of disposal by landfilling and incineration at existing facilities including slaughterhouses and hospitals were not entirely satisfactory. Subject to further environmental and financial assessments, the Administration planned to treat clinical wastes at the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre (CWTC) at Tsing Yi and build a stand-alone animal carcass cremator in Area 38 in Tuen Mun. If the latter plan went smoothly, the cremator would commission in 2000 at the earliest.

Construction waste

8.ddressing members' concern about disposal strategies for construction wastes in anticipation of increasing quantity in order to meet the housing development pledge, AD/WF said that the Administration reckoned the need to reduce the intake of construction wastes at landfills to reserve the valuable landfill space. An inter-departmental working group had been set up to devise an integrated management strategy including enhancing segregation of inert materials from construction wastes suitable for recycling and reuse at public dumps for reclamation purposes, setting up appropriate sorting facilities, promoting education on waste reduction and imposing charges on waste producers for disposing of construction wastes at landfills.

9.The Chairman was concerned about the effectiveness of the issue of codes of practice and technical circulars on better management of construction waste which were non-mandatory in nature. AD/WF advised that they were intended to be binding on government building contractors. As regards private developers, the landfill charging scheme would act as an economic disincentive to discourage disposing of construction waste at landfills.

Livestock waste

10. In reply to enquiries about economic use of livestock wastes, AD/WF said that about 60 to 70 tonnes of livestock wastes were composted daily and the volume could be reduced by 20% after such treatment. The final product from the composting process could be recycled as fertilizers. The compost plant at Shaling had been in operation for one year and the products were mainly sold to local farmers. The Administration would consider extending operation of the plant and noted a member's suggestions of exploring the feasibility of composting food residue collected from restaurants and identifying more outlets for compost products including opening up the Mainland market. EPD

Chemical, MARPOL and low-level radioactive wastes

11.The Chairman called on the Administration to enhance co-operation with the Guangdong Provincial Government on the treatment of chemical, MARPOL and low-level radioactive wastes to achieve cost-effective services. She noted that the operating cost of the CWTC was on the rise due to decreased intakes. The Administration should consider extending the service of CWTC to receive chemical and MARPOL wastes produced in the Pearl River Delta Region to maximize utilization of the Centre. On the other hand, Hong Kong lacked proper storage and disposal facilities for low-level radioactive wastes and might make use of such facilities in the Mainland.

12.The Acting Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) responded that the Administration's general policy was to recover the full cost for providing treatment services. A charging scheme for treatment of chemical and MARPOL wastes had been implemented since 1995 with a view to recovering the full cost in phases. The existing charges for treating MARPOL wastes recovered about 25% of the cost and the Administration had proposed to increase the recovery rate to 31%. Hong Kong was obliged under the MARPOL Convention to provide reception facilities for MARPOL wastes from sea-going ships using the Hong Kong Port and the CWTC was the designated treatment centre for Hong Kong. The Administration had to consider Hong Kong residents' response to any suggestion of treating wastes generated from Guangdong. As regards management of low-level radioactive wastes, the general principle held by the international community was that this responsibility should rest with the waste producers. The Chairman urged the Administration to explore channels for mutual use of environmental protection facilities in Hong Kong and the Mainland.

Waste reduction

13.Some members considered that the Administration should step up its efforts in the implementation of waste reduction measures. They pointed out that Hong Kong lacked waste segregation facilities to encourage recycling of wastes; inadequate support was given to environmental industries; and environmental education on waste avoidance and minimization was not evident in the overall waste management strategies. A member quoted examples in some overseas countries where legislation and regulations were introduced to enable recycling of plastic bottles and prohibit the use of styrofoam lunch boxes and urged the Administration to consider adopting a mandatory approach on waste reduction.

14.In response, AD/WF stressed that the Administration recognized the importance of community support and co-operation from the commercial and industrial sectors in successfully implementing any waste reduction plan. Education and publicity programmes would be organized for the purpose. In addition to providing financial assistance to environmental friendly industries and for undertaking environmental related projects, the Administration was actively considering measures, such as providing land at a low rent through restricted tendering by the waste recycling industries and disregarding of space in buildings for waste storage as usable areas. The Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Facilities Planning) (PEPO/FP) added that the Administration had all along maintained close liaison with tertiary institutions on research and development of new environmental friendly production technology and provided them with funding for undertaking related projects where appropriate.

15.On the need for introducing legislative measures to reduce wastes, PEPO/FP said that in the Administration's view, waste reduction should be better achieved through a partnership or voluntary approach in the initial stage. In fact, local producers had already used recyclable materials for making plastic bottles and set up recycling industries for plastic bottles with the Mainland counterparts. She further clarified that styrofoam boxes constituted only about one percent of the total municipal wastes disposed. Since substitute materials were more expensive and its quality was generally poor, it would be difficult to prohibit the use of styrofoam boxes before development of viable substitute products.

V.Cross-border co-operation and co-ordination on environmental issues

(PLC Paper No. CB(1)665(02))

16.Following up the Panel's suggestion at the last meeting to organize a visit to environmental protection facilities in Guangdong Province, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)3 (PAS/PEL(E)3) advised that after initial discussions with the Mainland authorities concerned through EPD's contacts with the Hong Kong - Guangdong Environmental Protection Liaison Group (EPLG), four facilities in Shenzhen namely, Futien Protection Area, Binhe Sewage Treatment Plant, Loufang Sewage Treatment Plant and Ma Wan Power Station, were recommended for members' visit. The Administration would inform members of the date and itinerary of the visit once they were available.

17.PAS/PEL(E)3 then briefed members on the co-operation and co-ordination between Hong Kong and Guangdong on environmental matters through the work of the EPLG. He highlighted that a technical Sub-group had been formed under the EPLG and met regularly to discuss implementation details of the annual Work Programme and experts of both sides held bi-monthly meetings. Members were assured that both sides had been maintaining close contact and exchanging environmental information of mutual concern.

18.To strengthen the function and representation of the EPLG, the Chairman suggested setting up a body comprising representatives from the educational, environmental and business sectors etc. to advise the EPLG, PAS/PEL(E)3 responded that the EPLG was a government-to-government body comprising senior government officials from both sides responsible for environmental protection work. The level of official representation was considered appropriate. The Administration often consulted the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) and this Panel, which were well represented by different sectors, on environmental matters of mutual concern to Hong Kong and Guangdong. Through these channels the Administration gathered views from different sectors. Nevertheless, the Administration would consider the Chairman's suggestion. PELB

19.To facilitate understanding of the work of the EPLG, members considered it important to have detailed information on measurable objectives of joint-action programmes under the EPLG to tackle pollution problems of mutual concern. In response, PAS/PEL(E)3 said that the EPLG had been trying to make its work more transparent. A press release informing the public of the outcome was issued after each meeting of the EPLG. A progress report was also submitted to the former LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs. The Acting Assistant Director (Environmental Assessment and Noise) (AD/EA&N (Atg)) added that as far as Hong Kong was concerned, environmental data, such as water and air quality indicators, were published periodically for public information. The Administration had to consult the Guangdong authorities on whether information relevant to the Mainland could be released. PELB/EPD

20.The Chairman was concerned about the deterioration of the water quality in the Deep Bay and sought information on any joint programme to address it. AD/EA&N (Atg) said that the EPLG had completed a joint monitoring study on Deep Bay water quality in 1995 and commissioned the Deep Bay Regional Control Strategy Study in late 1995 which was scheduled for completion in early 1998. The results of the study together with the recommendations would be submitted to the ACE for consideration in mid-1998. A review of the Deep Bay Action Plan was completed in early December 1997 and both sides would step up control measures to improve the water quality of the area.

21.As regards air quality in the Pearl River Delta Region, AD/EA&N (Atg) said that this was one of the priority concerns of the EPLG. A Study Group on Air Quality in the Pearl River Delta Region would be formed to conduct relevant studies and devise action plans for improvement. The Administration would provide members with written information on the work schedule of the Study Group. PELB/EPD

22.On the progress of the Environmental Impact Assessment Study of the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme Stage II, AD/EA&N (Atg) advised that the first and second phases of the Study would be completed in the first and second half of 1998 respectively. Report on Phase I of the Study would be submitted to the ACE in March to April 1998. The Administration noted members' request to be briefed on the Report as early as possible.

23.Responding to the Chairman's concern about water pollution at Dongjiang, PAS/PEL(E)3 explained that supply of fresh water fell within the purview of the Works Bureau. He understood that in conjunction with the Water Supplies Department, the Bureau had been maintaining close liaison with the Guangdong authorities to ensure the quality of water supplied to Hong Kong.

24.There being no other business, the meeting ended at 10:35 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
12 February 1998