Meeting: EPD & Islands District Office, 7 June 2012

Meeting to discuss pilot recycling scheme and recycling on Lamma

Conference Room, Harbour Building

Attendees

From Living Lamma:

Jo Wilson, Nick Bilcliffe, Fiona Donnelley

From Environmental Protection Department:

Dr Ellen Chan, AD(EI), Mr Michael Lui, S(WF)4, Mr Stephen Siu, S(WM)2

From Islands District Office:

Timothy TAM, Assistant District Officer, Ken CHENG, Liaison Officer i/c (Peng Chau/Lamma/Discovery Bay), Joe HUI, Liaison Officer (Lamma)

Purpose of the Meeting

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the pilot recycling scheme for Lamma, to present its shortcomings in the context of Living Lamma’s wider campaign to clean up Lamma and agree on action to ensure the long-term successful uptake of recycling in the community.

The Context

Living Lamma has been campaigning for a cleaner environment for 3 years. We have raised the issues affecting the quality of life in our community with various government departments and held numerous meetings with IsDO and EPD. Our campaign has been well documented and copies of our reports have already been shared with EPD and IsDO. Those relevant to today’s discussion are:

    1. Submission to the Legco Sub-Committee on Combating Fly-tipping (29th April 2009)
    2. Stop the Mess Report (February 2010) delivered and discussed at various meetings with Is/DO, EPD, FEHD, LCSD and LandsD.
    3. Response to the Administration’s Proposed Legislative Amendments to “Require any person who intends to carry out depositing activity on land held under private ownership to obtain prior written permission of all the landowner(s) concerned that bears the authority’s seal, failing which will be liable to prosecution.” Submitted to the Panel on Environmental Affairs on Combating Fly-tipping (30th March 2010).
    4. Response to the Consultation Document, “Safe and Sustainable: A New Producer Responsibility Scheme for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment,” submitted to the EPD (30th April 2010)
    5. Open letters to Edward Yau on Lamma’s Waste Problems and the Implications of the SKC Incinerator Proposal (dated 15th December

2011 and 18th November 2011)

    1. What does Asia’s World City do with its Waste? PowerPoint presentation (December 2011)
    2. Response to the Consultation Paper, “Sustainable Waste Management, Strengthening Waste Reduction: is Waste Charging an Option?” Submitted to the EPD (9th April 2012).

Living Lamma also took part in the following radio discussions on waste issues:

RTHK Backchat 2012-01-04 (Incinerator) http://programme.rthk.hk//assets/contentindex/asx/radio3_514_164537_15 898.asx

RTHK Backchat 2012-04-19 (Incinerator) http://programme.rthk.hk//assets/contentindex/asx/radio3_514_176066_18 447.asx

RTHK Morning Brew (Glass Recycling) http://programme.rthk.hk/channel/radio/programme.php?name=radio3/mor ning_brew&d=2012-06-01&p=2505&e=&m=episode

Attendees to the meeting should all be familiar with above documents. If there are any papers or presentation that participants have not seen, please let us know. We would be happy to forward copies of any of the work listed.

Evaluation of the Pilot Recycling Scheme on Lamma for Food Waste, Glass, Plastic and Small Electrical Items from a User Perspective.

General Comments

  • Living Lamma first raised Lammaʼs waste problems with EPD in 2009. At meetings with Anissa Wong on 30th April 2009 and 24th May 2010, we also raised the idea of piloting recycling schemes in the community.
  • Lamma, and particularly Yung Shue Wan, is a compact community with a high proportion of environmentally educated people who have expressed (and with glass recycling have demonstrated) the desire to recycle more. Aside from the current pilot scheme on recycling food waste, there are no facilities for recycling in the community. Unwanted items are left at the bin areas. Occasionally these might be picked up and reused (if they are not despoiled by rain, dog pee or mixed waste being dumped on top). Mostly they are picked up and transported to the Waste Transfer Station and then taken to landfill.
  • Living Lamma received no feedback on plans to establish a pilot recycling scheme, until the morning of January 4th, 2012, when it was briefly mentioned to Chairperson Jo Wilson by Elvis Au prior to a radio discussion on the incinerator. Mr. Au mentioned food waste, but not glass, plastic and small electrical items.
  • EPD did not seek Living Lamma’s advice in setting up the scheme and showed a lack of knowledge of local conditions. Living Lamma objected to their first choice of location – a platform opposite the post office – on the grounds that the Lands Department had stated 2 years previously that it was illegal and unsafe. Living Lamma has been campaigning for this local eyesore to be taken down and the derelict stretch of shoreline beautified, with as yet no result. EPD did not subsequently contact Living Lamma to discuss the venue or operation of the scheme prior to its commencement.
  • The scheme started on March 2nd 2012. There were no notices about it in the community. On Saturday 31st March 2012, the scheme was officially launched, but only a small group was invited to the ceremony. Living Lamma, Lamma’s other green groups, and the wider community were excluded.
  • There seems to be no coherent communication strategy for the scheme. Posters and banners have only been put up after we have asked for them. These are not designed to engage the community or change behaviour. There was no Lamma specific information available locally for several weeks. There have been no clear notices at the bin areas to tell people not to put glass, paper, cans, plastic or small electrical items into the general bin. There are also no details of local recyclers given at the bin areas.
  • There has been no public statement on the objectives of the scheme, what the success factors are and what is planned for the future. No data has been made public to demonstrate how much waste the scheme is taking out of landfill or to provide comparisons with other pilot schemes in Hong Kong.
  • The operation of the scheme is very limited and doesn’t take into account people’s habits or their availability to participate at the designated times.
  • Living Lamma volunteered to assist with the communication and operation of the scheme on 27th April 2012. Though we have demonstrated a significant contribution to the scheme’s success, it has been difficult to get information from EPD and we have seen no commitment to making the scheme sustainable over the long term.

Specific Comments by Type of Recycling

Glass

  • On Friday 27th April, Jo Wilson, Chairperson of Living Lamma became an “ambassador” to the recycling scheme. On that day, Mrs. Wilson introduced Michael Liu (EPD) to bars and restaurants to talk about the scheme. About half the businesses on Lamma Main Street were covered that day. It was thought that EPD would send a representative to continue the task of talking to the bars and restaurants the following day, or the following week. To date, there has not been any follow up.
  • Ms. Wilson and volunteers from Living Lamma have continued to support the scheme, focusing on the logistical problems of glass collection caused by the limited operational hours of the booths. Many bars and restaurants are closed or short staffed on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Prior to Living Lamma’s involvement in the scheme, their habit was to leave rubbish (including glass) at one of the 4 bin areas that serve Lamma Main Street.With Living Lamma’s assistance on:
  • May 4th, over 350 kgs of glass was taken out of landfill
  • May 11th, over 700 kgs of glass was taken out of landfill
  • Thereafter, for the last 3 weeks, over 1 tonne of glass has been taken out of landfill.
      • Note: These are estimates, as EPD has not provided exact data on the amount of glass collected. The figures do not include Saturday’s collections, which Living Lamma is also involved in collecting.
      • We discovered last week that Lamma’s glass has yet to find its way to the recycling facility, but is currently sitting in a reception area at landfill. We were told at the start of the scheme that the glass would be going to a recycling plant in the New Territories, but EPD cannot even say when this is going to happen.
      • Living Lamma has demonstrated people’s willingness to separate their waste. We have also lightened the load for FEHD staff by well over 1 tonne/week and have witnessed a noticeable difference in the bin areas. We are starting to see bags of separated glass left next to the bins. People clearly think it will be recycled if they do this (it will not. FEHD will put it with the general waste and it will be put into landfill). Where possible, Living Lamma volunteers are collecting and saving this to bring to the booths.

Food Waste

      • Like glass the food waste recycling scheme suffered from poor communication. Though EPD said they had spoken to the bars and restaurants, a quick survey of businesses on Lamma Main Street on 30th March found that most businesses did not know about it.
      • Those restaurants that knew about the food waste recycling and were participating had not been told about other elements of the recycling scheme and did not know that glass bottles could be recycled.
      • The limited operation times of the booth staff are a barrier to communication. One bar said that they asked booth staff to return after 5 pm when the owner would be there, but booth employees only work 1-4pm and no-one ever followed up.
      • All restaurants that are participating that Living Lamma has spoken to say they are happy to do it.
      • Like the glass recycling, there have been no weekly reports issued on the progress of the scheme, what the success factors are and what the long-term plan for food waste recycling is. We understand there is no plan to extend food waste recycling to the wider community, though we believe people would be willing to do it.
      • We have yet to receive any compost from the programme or be provided with any indication of when this might be ready.
      • There are many gardeners on Lamma who would be keen to have the compost.

Plastic Recycling

      • The general remarks above also apply to plastic recycling included in the pilot scheme. People are confused about plastic because Lamma already has separate recycling bins for plastic. It has not been made clear to the public why plastic should also be brought to the booth instead of being put in the usual recycling bin.
      • It has also not been made clear what type of plastic is permissible for recycling. EPD said that it was only for bottles, but on a visit to the Eco- Park, plastics recycler Yan Oi Tong said that they can recycle all plastic waste apart from Type 3 (PVC) found in detergent bottles and clear food packaging, because of the harmful dioxins produced in processing.
      • There has never been a clear answer about where the recycling from the existing recycling bins goes. Many people are skeptical about this and otherwise environmentally educated people have told Living Lamma that they do not bother to recycle because they believe it all goes to landfillo. We have raised this problem of perception with EPD. Their reply was to quote government waste recovery figures, which do not make sense given the habits we see on a daily basis (recyclables in the general bins, non-recyclables in the recycling bins and all waste collected in the same black bags on the same trucks and taken to the WTS). No solutions were offered.
      • We have also been asked whether people should be pulling plastic out of the existing recycling bins to bring to the booths.
      • Despite two potential avenues for recycling plastic, we still see plastic bottles thrown into the bins and FEHD taking them with other general waste to the WTS from where they are taken to landfill.

Small Waste Electrical Items

      • The general remarks above also apply to the collection and recycling of small electrical items. There has been no information provided on what items are required and no feedback from the recyclers.
      • Eco-park staff told us that St. James’ Settlement has demand for larger electrical items – fridges, washing machines, etc. At present, on Lamma, if left at the bins, these items are collected by FEHD and taken to the WTS from where they go to landfill. There is some private recycling on Lamma – as witnessed by stockpiles of old machinery throughout the community – but there is no easily accessible information on who is doing this or where the items go. Often these items are simply dumped or left to cause eyesores.

Measures for Establishing a Recycling Community on Lamma

In 1995, a proposal was put forward by a town planner living on Lamma for waste minimization on Lamma, which included the establishment of community recycling facilities that would remove an estimated 50% of waste to landfill based on a waste separation scheme that would recover 70% of all “putrescibles,” paper and metal, and aim at recovering 50% of plastics, textiles, glass, rubber and wood.

None of the recommendations put forward were adopted. Opportunities for new material sources, employment and community independence were ignored. Our bin areas have not changed in 20 years. The addition of recycling bins has come at the request of residents and they have been located in an ad hoc manner. There has been no attempt to strategically plan the collection of waste and recycling so as to encourage source separation and facilitate community recycling and no serious attempt to reduce waste to landfill. As a result, Lamma’s bin areas are dumping grounds – public nuisances causing eyesores throughout the community.

An assessment of current waste disposal habits should be carried out and the various recyclable elements currently taken to landfill should be identified. The bin areas should be assessed and overhauled to make them clean and appropriately designed to encourage recycling. The informal recycling methods in the community should be assessed and clearly understood and systems should set up to bring about environmental improvement. Alternative solutions to overcome logistical and storage problems should be explored with the input from stakeholders across the community.

A blueprint for Lamma’s waste management should be formulated and implemented. Other districts should learn from Lamma’s experience in formulating their own plans for waste minimization and recycling.

These measures may take a couple of years to come to fruition. In the meantime, immediate action could greatly improve the operation and communication of the existing recycling scheme.

Action Plan for the Improvement of the Pilot Scheme for Glass, Food Waste, Plastic and Small Electrical Items

    1. Next Steps for Glass Collection

For proper facilitation of glass recycling, we need glass collection bins at the existing bin areas. We also need FEHD staff to be instructed not to put separated glass in with the trash that goes to landfill. The WTS should be able to accommodate a separate container for glass, which could be transported only when full. EPD needs to work out the logistics of getting the glass to the recyclers.

Next Steps for Food Waste Recycling

The scheme would benefit from more communication and from drawing up a plan for the use of the compost in the community. This should involve government departments, schools and community groups. The pilot scheme for food waste recycling could be extended to residents by installing a separate bin at selected bin areas or asking participating restaurants to invite members of the public to bring their food waste to their bins.

Next Steps for Plastic Recycling

As with other items, plastic recycling could be enhanced with better communication and operational procedures. Certainly the confusion over the two ways to recycle plastic and over the types of plastics that can be recycled should be addressed. Waste reduction should also be promoted by encouraging people to use their own containers.

There has been no attempt in Hong Kong to reduce the amount of water sold in plastic bottles. This is supplied to government contractors and is often found dumped off the path – often with most of the water still in the bottle! The Water Services Department claims that, “Hong Kong enjoys one of the safest water supplies in the world.” Why then does the government do nothing to encourage people to choose tap water over bottled water as a means of reducing plastic waste?

Next Steps for Small Waste Electrical Items

Simple action could significantly help people to recycle electrical items. Improving the operational aspect of the programme would allow people to drop of their items at times that are convenient for them. Instructing FEHD staff to keep electrical items separate would prevent them from being dumped in landfill. There should be a separate area for electrical items for transfer for recycling. This could be done initially by having a certain day of the month for people to bring out their large electrical items that they want to recycle. This idea could be extended to other household items that are still fit for use.

There needs to be much greater cooperation between EPD, now tasked with rolling out a programme to take waste out of landfill, and FEHD, which very efficiently empties the bin areas every day but in so doing assists the transfer of recyclable items to landfill. This does not inspire public confidence in the government’s commitment to waste reduction and recycling, particularly at a time when EPD is looking for HK$15 billion to follow the Singapore model of waste management, which relies chiefly on incineration and landfill with very little recycling.