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《Nature and Man in One 2016》 The Inferno(1)


《Nature and Man in One 2016》 The Inferno(1)

As Hong Kong’s three landfills are expected to hit capacity soon, the government plans to build a waste incinerator in Shek Kwu Chau to tackle the imminent problem. Incineration or landfill disposals are both end solutions in waste management. Incineration could significantly reduce but not completely eliminate solid waste, but there’re follow-up issues to be handled.

In 1991, Taiwan launched the “one incinerator for one county” policy to solve the municipal solid waste problem. 36 incinerators were initially planned, only 26 were built and two of those never opened mainly due to public opposition, and the significant municipal waste reduction due to mandatory waste sorting and recycling. Proper waste management and sorting must be carried out in waste incineration. After the process, an incinerator ash of about 15% from the original mass would remain, the heavy metal bearing wastes and other toxic contents such as dioxins must be processed before disposing to landfills or reusing. Taiwan has seen a continuous decrease in waste and has achieved a recycling rate of over 50% after setting waste reduction as their goal. The waste management policy has shifted from "incineration as primary, supplemented by landfills" towards “recycling as primary, incineration as supplementary”. Taipei is planning to shut down an incineration plant.

In Japan, the nation of waste incineration, over 70% of Japan’s waste is incinerated. Take Tokyo City’s 23 wards, the whole area covers about 600 square kilometers, which is over half of the whole of Hong Kong. Tokyo City has a dense population of over 9 million and 21 incineration plants in its 23 wards. The incinerators are built within the communities, practically “burning our own waste”. The short transfer minimizes secondary pollution, but there’re local oppositions of having incinerators built in the communities. Treating incinerator ash poses another problem, according to information provided by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, the landfills in Japan will hit capacity in 20 years. Since there’s no land for landfill sites in Tokyo’s 23 wards, land is reclaimed in Tokyo Bay. Some plants use thermal melting technology, by melting ash into slag at a high temperature of 1200 degrees Celsius, to shrink the volume of ash, at 1/20 of original waste mass, to a further 1/40, with a purpose to ease pressure on landfills.

We handle our wastes with landfilling and incineration, but we should really aim for waste reduction and “zero waste” in the long run.
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