Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(1)692
(These minutes have
been seen by the

Ref: CB1/PL/EA

Panel on Environmental Affairs

Minutes of meeting held on Friday, 21 November 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 Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Henry WU
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon CHAN Choi-hi
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP
Hon MOK Ying-fan
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public officers attending :

Items IV and V

Mr Benjamin TANG
Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)

Dr Mike CHIU
Acting Director of Environmental Protection

Item IV

Mr Steve Barclay
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands (Environment) 2
Mr Conrad LAM

Acting Assistant Director (Waste Facilities)
Mr Alex NG

Acting Principal Environmental Protection Officer
(Facilities Management)

Item V

Miss Joey LAM
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,

Environment and Lands (Environment) 1
Mr Raymond CHAN

Assistant Director (Environmental Assessment and Noise)

Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Noise Management and Policy Group)

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 Nos. CB(1)469 and CB(1)480)

The minutes of the Panel meetings held on 13 and 24 October 1997 were confirmed.

II.Date of next meeting and items for discussion

2.Members agreed on the following -

  1. to hold a joint meeting with the Health Services Panel on Friday, 19 December 1997, at 8:30 am to discuss the subject of overall waste management strategies under which the issue of treatment of clinical wastes would be considered; and

  2. to hold the regular Panel meeting immediately after the joint meeting to discuss the subject of cross-border co-operation and co-ordination on environmental issues.

[Post-meeting note : with the consent of the Chairman and Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, Chairman of the Health Services Panel, members of the Health Services Panel would be invited to join the discussion on overall waste management strategies at the Environmental Affairs Panel meeting.]

3.The Chairman informed the Panel the following -

  1. the Advisory Council on the Environment would make a courtesy call on Wednesday, 17 December 1997, at 10:30 am the details of which had been conveyed to members vide PLC Paper No. CB(1)495 dated 14 November 1997; and

  2. Members of the Environmental Affairs Panel would be invited to a joint meeting of the Panels on Housing and Transport to be held on 15 December 1997 to discuss the development of infrastructure for meeting the Administration's target of producing 85,000 residential units per year from 1999 onwards.

III.Information paper issued since last meeting

(PLC Paper No. CB(1)438 - the Administration's response to a letter from Sha Lo Tung Development Co. Ltd. concerning Sha Lo Tung Development Plan)

4.Members noted the captioned information paper issued since last meeting.

IV.Proposed increased usage for selected refuse transfer stations

(PLC Paper No. CB(1)504(01))

5.The Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)2 (PAS/PEL(E)2) briefed members on the salient points of the information paper as follows -

  1. the Administration proposed to extend the existing service of selected refuse transfer stations (RTS) to receive privately collected wastes in addition to publicly collected wastes delivered by the two Provisional Municipal Councils (PMC). The proposal would have the advantages of maximizing the utilization of RTSs as well as reducing traffic and vehicular emissions caused by long haulage of wastes by small waste collection vehicles from the waste sources to landfills. Initially, the West Kowloon Transfer Station (WKTS) and the Island East Transfer Station (IETS) would be opened to privately collected wastes under a trial scheme to be commenced in early 1998;

  2. the proposal would be entirely voluntary. Private waste collectors who chose to use the RTS service would be required to pay a service fee. The fee did not cover the landfill disposal charge which the Administration intended to collect in future. Those who chose not to use the service could continue with their existing practice of delivering their wastes directly to the three strategic landfills in the New Territories.

  3. the private waste collectors associations had been consulted on the proposal. The associations basically welcomed the proposal although they requested to lower the proposed service fees. A visit to the two selected RTSs would be organised in the following week to enable private waste collectors to gain a better understanding of the operation of the RTSs. The PMCs would be consulted on the proposal in early December 1997; and

  4. the Administration would monitor the implementation of the trial scheme closely. A review would be conducted six months after the launch to evaluate its effectiveness and improvements would be made where necessary.

6.Members generally supported the proposal to promote the use of the RTS service among private waste collectors to realise the environmental benefits associated with RTS system in transporting wastes to landfills. Some members, however, raised concerns about the proposed service fees, the adequacy of handling capacity of the two selected RTSs and possible interference with the existing operation of PMCs at RTSs.

7.Regarding the proposed charging scheme for RTS service, a member urged the Administration to re-examine the proposed fee levels to provide sufficient financial incentive to private waste collectors. Another member opined that instead of focusing on the cost incurred in providing the service to private waste collectors, the Administration should consider the cost structures of private waste collection in devising the charging scheme.

8.Addressing members' concerns, PAS/PEL(E)2 explained that the Administration appreciated the need to set the service fees at a commercially attractive level to potential users. As the RTS service would be a voluntary alternative disposal means for private waste collectors, the Administration had taken a conscious decision not to charge users the full cost of providing the service. The present proposal only aimed at recovering the marginal cost of providing the service. In determining the fee levels of the two selected RTSs, the Administration had taken into account the potential savings, such as distance from landfills, transportation cost, tunnel fees, turnaround time etc. to private waste collectors on using the RTS service. Furthermore, some cross-subsidization had been built-in to achieve the target of recovering the overall total marginal cost. Hence, differential rates were set for the IETS and the WKTS at $85/tonne and $65/tonne respectively for peak hours. The proposed charges would recover about one-third of the marginal cost of providing the RTS service. Should it be decided that more RTSs be opened to private waste collectors in the future, the fees for individual RTSs would be reviewed. For example, if the Kowloon Bay Transfer Station were to be opened, a lower fee incapable of recovering the marginal cost might have to be charged to make it attractive to users given the close proximity of the station to the South East New Territories Landfill at Tseung Kwan O and hence less potential savings to users. The Administration noted a member's suggestion of enlarging the difference between the charge rates for the two selected RTSs to take account of more tunnel fees incurred by waste collectors on Hong Kong Island in delivering wastes to landfills in the New Territories.

9.On the capacity of the two selected RTSs, the Acting Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Facilities Management) (Ag. P(FM)) advised that the WKTS and the IETS had a daily handling capacity of 2,500 tonnes and 1,200 tonnes respectively. The average IETS and WKTS utilisation rates were 80% and 60% of their handling capacity respectively. The commissioning of the Island West Transfer Station had reduced the IETS publicly collected waste intake considerably. Existing operation of the two selected RTSs was efficient. Wastes delivered during peak hours were handled swiftly without delay. According to the Administration's estimation, each of the two RTSs would receive about 400-500 tonnes of privately collected wastes every day and the two RTSs would have adequate capacity to cope with the increase in waste load without causing adverse impact on the existing operation of PMCs. To encourage private waste collectors to use RTS service during non-peak hours, discounted rates at $65/tonne for the IETS and $50/tonne for the WKTS would be applied. The five RTSs presently in operation had an average usage rate of 70%. The Administration would carefully assess the capacity of individual RTSs in handling publicly collected wastes generated from the serving areas and the estimated amount of wastes to be delivered by private waste collectors in its catchment area before opening up more RTSs for the use of private waste collectors. In this connection, the Chairman remarked that besides introducing the discounted rates, the Administration should consider imposing administrative arrangements to discourage private waste collectors from using RTS facilities during peak hours.

10.As regards the targets to be achieved in the trial scheme, Ag. P(FM) said that a total of 16,000 tonnes of wastes were disposed of at landfills every day of which 7,000 tonnes were construction wastes. Among the remaining 9,000 tonnes of municipal wastes, 3,000 tonnes were delivered by private waste collectors. Hence, the 1,000 tonnes of additional wastes to be handled by the two RTSs represented about one-third of the total amount of daily municipal waste delivered by private waste collectors directly to landfills at present. Given the estimated four to five tonnes waste load per collection vehicle, a reduction of about 100 vehicle trips to landfills would result from the opening of one RTS to accept privately collected waste.

11.Pointing out that the introduction of modern waste-to-energy incinerators would be the new direction for Hong Kong's waste management strategy, a member enquired about the need for providing more RTSs and landfill sites in the future. In response, the Acting Director of Environmental Protection (Ag. DEP) said that a network of nine RTSs was planned under the "Waste Disposal Plan 1989" and five stations had already been in operation. Since RTSs provided a cleaner and more efficient system for transporting wastes in bulk, their operation would facilitate both landfill and incineration disposals of wastes. PAS/PEL(E)2 added that the new waste-to-energy incineration technology would reduce the amount of wastes requiring disposal at landfills, thus prolonging their life span. As a result, the need for new landfill sites could be deferred.

12.Elaborating on the network of the nine RTSs, Ag. P(FM) advised that Tsuen Wan was served by the WKTS at West Kowloon Reclamation. The Shatin Transfer Station served North East New Territories including Tai Po and Shatin. On the remaining four RTSs yet to be provided, construction was in progress for the North Lantau and Outlying Islands Transfer Stations. Preparation for the North West New Territories Transfer Station was underway and construction contract would be tendered in mid-1998. The Station would be sited at a convenient location between its two catchment areas of Tuen Mun and Yuen Long. Preliminary planning for the North New Territories Transfer Station had been started.

13.Noting that about 7,000 tonnes of construction wastes were generated every day, a member enquired about how these were disposed of given that the RTSs did not handle such wastes. In reply, the Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) said that at present, construction wastes were taken direct either to public dumps for reclamation purpose, or to landfills. As regards long-term solution for disposal of construction wastes, the Civil Engineering Department had commissioned a consultancy study on this area which was expected to be completed in early December 1997. The Administration would draw upon findings of the study and incorporate programmes and measures for the disposal of construction wastes in the overall waste management strategies.

14.In reply to an enquiry about the proposed landfill charging scheme, PAS/PEL(E)2 advised that considerable time and effort had been spent on formulating a proposal which would be acceptable and equitable to both waste collectors and taxpayers. The Administration was consulting relevant parties on the revised proposal and would report on the latest developments on the scheme at the Panel meeting to be held in January 1998.

V.Effectiveness of installed noise barriers

(PLC Paper No. CB(1)504(02))

15.The Assistant Director of Environmental Protection (Environmental Assessment and Noise) (AD(EA)) gave a visual presentation on the effectiveness of different types of direct noise mitigation measures including barriers, enclosures, quiet road surface and building designs. Members remarked that the presentation was comprehensive and had enabled them to gain a better understanding of the subject.


16.Members noted that about 10 km of noise barriers had been erected in Hong Kong since the mid-1980's. The Administration was requested to provide information on the cost of constructing these barriers as far as possible. As to the use of quiet road surface, AD(EA) said that this measure had become a standard provision on all new highways because of its effectiveness in reducing traffic noise and road accidents although relaying of materials at an interval of four to five years was required.

17.On enquiries about the relationship between the effectiveness of noise barriers and their structures, such as materials, shapes and length, AD(EA) explained that different materials including concrete, wood, transparent panels and perforated metal were used in barriers under various conditions. The minimum weight required was 10 kg/sq m of material used. Transparent panels were commonly used for barriers installed in close proximity of domestic premises in Hong Kong in order to avoid blocking of views. Curved barriers were more effective than vertical barriers in alleviating noise problem at the upper floors of high-rise buildings and the top-bent design of the barrier would not affect air circulation. It was generally true that where a noise sensitive receiver was situated at an exposed location, longer barriers had to be erected to provide better protection. In response to a question, AD(EA) explained that the barriers built at Tseung Kwan O Tunnel Road near Hong Sing Gardens and those at Shing Mun Tunnel Road near Mei Lam Estate and May Shing Court as shown in the brochure had been designed to protect noise sensitive uses which were not there when the photos were taken but had subsequently been built.

18.Notwithstanding that it was often supported from the environmental protection point of view to provide direct noise mitigation measures, a member pointed out that the Administration often only undertook to provide indirect technical remedies in the form of window insulation and air-conditioning to alleviate traffic noise. He called on the Administration to review the existing process of providing noise mitigation measures for new roads with a view to improving co-ordination and co-operation among various government departments.

19.In response, AD(EA) advised that the Administration had to take into account technical and safety considerations such as structural limitations, obstruction to pedestrian access and inconsistency with drivers' sightline specification, in applying direct noise mitigation measures in urban areas of Hong Kong. Each case was assessed carefully on its own merits and appropriate measures were adopted judiciously. Nevertheless, the general principle was to provide direct mitigation measures, wherever practicable and cost-effective, in dealing with traffic noise. On the need to enhance co-ordination and co-operation among government departments involved in road projects, the Administration maintained that under the existing mechanism an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study would be conducted to assess the potential traffic noise impacts of a road project comprehensively and objectively including the feasibility of providing direct noise mitigation measures. Views of affected residents would also be considered. The Administration stressed that the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau would continue to assume the co-ordinating role in the process and would ensure co-operation from concerned departments.

20.Concerning the provision of noise mitigation measures for existing public roads, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) 1 advised that 18 stretches of existing roads had been selected for an engineering feasibility study on installation of noise barriers or enclosures. The study was commissioned in October 1996 and was expected to be completed in mid-1998.

21.A member expressed concern about the effectiveness of noise barriers and enclosures installed along existing roads in reducing traffic noise to the maximum permissible level of 70dB(A) for domestic premises as stipulated in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines. In response, AD(EA) said that based on the results of tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Department on completed barriers, the corrected assessments of measured noise levels were close to the expected noise levels. In another words, installed barriers were effective in screening traffic noise. On the Deputy Chairman's suggestion of adopting more stringent noise standards to enhance protection, AD(EA) said that unlike some overseas countries, such as the Netherlands where the upper limit of road traffic noise at night time was set at 40-50 dB(A), there were practical difficulties in raising the existing standard in Hong Kong as the present permissible level was not even complied with in some cases.

22.In addition to providing direct and indirect technical remedies to mitigate traffic noise, a member suggested that the Administration undertaking researches on active noise control measures such as the technique of noise interference. AD(EA) said that the technique was usually applied to control noise in a confined space such as air conditioning duct, transformer room or a water-cooling tower rather than to protect exposed noise receivers affected by traffic noise. PELB/EPD

23.A member pointed out that in order to comply with special noise mitigation requirements, developers were at time subject to constraints in building design. He cited the Hong Kong Technical College (Chai Wan) Staff Quarters as an example where all windows facing the MTR railway were required to be installed with fixed glazing but the design had created air circulation problem inside the dwelling units. He urged the Administration to review the need for such requirements. The Administration took note of the concern and undertook to look into the matter.

VI.Any other business

24.Mr CHAN Choi-hi suggested organising a visit to environmental protection facilities in Guangdong Province to enhance understanding between Hong Kong and Guangdong. Members agreed to consider the proposal at the next Panel meeting.

[Post-meeting note : with the consent of the Chairman, the proposal was relayed to the Administration on 21 November 1997 for commencing preparatory work.]

25.There being no other business, the meeting ended at 10:40 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
22 December 1997