Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Environmental Affairs
CLINICAL WASTE MANAGEMENT PROGRESS REPORT
Members of the Panels on Environmental Affairs and Health Services were briefed on developments concerning the proposed disposal facility for clinical waste and the proposed clinical waste control strategy on 24 October 1997. As requested by Members, the Administration presented a waste management strategy paper on 19 December 1997 in which the management of clinical waste was included.
2.This report updates Members about the latest progress concerning the management of clinical waste.
CLINICAL WASTE DISPOSAL FACILITY
3.We have re-examined the options for the disposal of clinical waste. However, we remain of the view that the most cost effective option is to utilise the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre (CWTC) at Tsing Yi for treating clinical waste, subject to further environmental and financial assessments. Members will recall that we carried out a trial burn of clinical waste at the CWTC in November 1996. This found that it was technically feasible for the CWTC to incinerate clinical waste. We intend to carry out a supplementary environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the treatment of clinical waste at the CWTC to confirm the technical feasibility of the proposal in detail.
4.Following the EIA we will conduct further public consultation with the District Board and the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE). We would then seek funds for the necessary works from the Finance Committee. We hope that we would put in place temporary measures for proper clinical waste disposal within a little over one year from now. The longer term modifications to the CWTC will take more time to complete.
5.The Administration will also consider the possibility of co-incineration or co-siting of the clinical waste incinerator with the proposed waste-to-energy incinerator as a long term arrangement.
6.As stated in the waste management strategy paper presented to Members on 19 December 1997 , we plan to implement in phases an effective control scheme for the proper management of clinical waste to safeguard public health and safety. The clinical waste control scheme would define the responsibilities between clinical waste producers, collectors, and disposal operators, and provide guidance on the proper management and disposal of clinical waste.
INTERIM ARRANGEMENT FOR THE DISPOSAL OF CLINICAL WASTE
7.During the interim, we have instigated an administrative permit system for better control of the disposal of clinical waste at landfills. Before the commissioning of the CWTC to treat clinical waste, the Government would arrange to incinerate human body parts and human tissues at some existing suitable pathological waste incinerators and cremators in accordance with the existing arrangements. The Urban Services Department and the Regional Services Department would also continue to provide the existing clinical waste collection services during this interim period.
CONSULTATION ON THE PROPOSED CLINICAL WASTE CONTROL SCHEME
8.We consulted a total of 32 relevant organisations on the proposed clinical waste control scheme in October 1997. These organisations covered medical, dental, pharmaceutical and veterinary sectors, tertiary and research institutions, and the waste collection trade. The consultation ended at the end of November 1997. We received responses from 20 organisations covering all the sectors consulted. Whilst we have not yet completed our assessment and response to the consultation, it is fair to say that there was a mixed reaction but that the major clinical waste producers were generally supportive. We did receive a considerable number of constructive comments designed to make the control scheme better, for which we are grateful.
9.As a result we are, for example, examining how we can simplify the packaging and labelling proposals contained in the consultation document. We intend to finalise our draft response by the end of February. We then plan to meet with interested parties to discuss any contentious issues before preparing legislative proposals.
THE WAY FORWARD
10.We hope to carry out the supplementary EIA for the CWTC at Tsing Yi by the middle of this year. That will be followed by consultation with the District Board and ACE. If there are no unexpected findings in the EIA we believe that temporary measures to process clinical waste could be in place at the CWTC in a little over a year from now. The permanent arrangements will take more time to complete.
11.We hope to put in place within about a year amendments to the Waste Disposal Ordinance, and enact charging regulations to allow the CWTC to charge for the receipt of clinical waste. This is likely to precede the regulations introducing the clinical waste control scheme. Thus we envisage that the CWTC will be available to accept clinical waste, on a voluntary basis, in about one year's time.
Planning, Environmental and Lands Bureau