Meeting: Ellen Chan, EPD, 24 September 2012

Meeting with Ellen Chan, EPD

20/F Harbour Building

Pre-Meeting Notes

  1. Future of recycling on Lamma
    1. Glass
    2. Plastic
    3. Paper
    4. Metal
    5. Small WEEE
    6. Food Waste
    7. Green Waste
    8. Application in front of library
  2. Plans for Overhaul of Bin Areas and RCPS
    1. When were they built?
    2. Who is responsible for bin design?
    3. Context – stop the mess
    4. Examples from UK, France
  3. Faulty Scales and Data
    1. Need data from 1st June to present
    2. Remedial action for shortfall in stamps
  4. Plans for rice handout/recycling promotion day
    1. Link to 3b
    2. Recognition for community efforts
  5. Lamma Fun Day
    1. Recycling promotion
    2. Glass Collection
    3. Waste reduction
    4. Food Waste Collection??
    5. Support from EPD
  6. ECF
    1. Range of projects LL could apply for
    2. Looking for guidance

Excerpts from recent emails to EPD:

7th Sept 2012

1. We felt today that the scales were not giving an accurate reading and tested them with a 1.5 litre bottle of Pocari, which the scales weighed at just 880 grams and then 900 grams – far less than it should be. It is our feeling that the glass collection is much the same each week as we were collecting when we were breaking 1000 kgs on a Friday afternoon. Can you please investigate and also provide us with the data on glass collection from June 1st to the end of August?

2. We notice that EPD has applied to the Lands Department to occupy a piece of land opposite the Post Office for “the setting up of recycling points.” This location is not appropriate as the collection of materials would necessitate the blocking of the path at one of the narrowest and busiest points in the village. The notice does not explain the intention – exactly what kind of recycling points are to be put there? – but if the intention is to move the Friday booth from its current location, this would be dangerous as the location does not provide enough space for the booth’s operations. I am very irritated that once again I am having to spend my time to write a letter of objection to the Lands Department (previously EPD suggested using the illegal platform that has been deemed unsafe for public use and I understand that during my absence there was a notice requesting permission to occupy space outside the post office, which another Living Lamma member happened to see and object to on the ground that it would cause an obstruction.)

Living Lamma has been instrumental in making this programme a success. I cannot understand why EPD appears to be intent on choosing locations that are most likely to cause obstruction and endanger the public. If there is a problem with the current location, please explain to me what this is. We would be happy to offer our support in resolving any issues there might be.

3. At our meeting, you mentioned that you would be meeting with FEHD to talk about long-term glass recycling solutions. Can you tell me what was the outcome of that meeting? Can we expect to see permanent glass collection bins on Lamma any time soon?

4. Living Lamma has reduced FEHD’s workload by 1.5 tonnes per week. Does FEHD intend to take this workload back (and recycle not simply add to landfills) or would it be appropriate for Living Lamma, as an NGO that is in the finally stages of applying for charity status, to take over with funding from the ECF? Perhaps EPD has other plans for the sustainability of the programme? If so, can we discuss this?

5. We don’t have the exact data for our glass recycling efforts – and question the accuracy of the scales – but from our experience we can guess that we have now filled a 20 foot container. We met with Dixon Chan, Director of Tiostone, last week at an event organised by HK Magazine to promote glass recycling in Hong Kong and he said that he had finally got hold of some glass from Lamma, but he was only given 1 tonne, which had been placed in 80 kg containers. Dixon has the ability to use all the glass we have collected. His factory yard can also accommodate a container. Can you explain the reason for only giving him such a small amount and when can we expect for him to take full delivery of all the glass collected from Lamma?

I am very happy to chat to you about these points in person. As we will soon be in a position to apply for our first ECF project, I would also very much appreciate some guidance from you on this in general. As you may be aware, Living Lamma has been involved in a wide range of environmental related issues over the last 3 years and I would like to find the best fit for a first ECF project.

Best regards


Jo Wilson


Living Lamm

11th June 2012

Dear Ellen,

The glass recycling booths received over 1.6 tonnes last week – another record.

We are very pleased of your commitment to meet with FEHD, but concerned with the lack of vision and targets, for waste reduction and recycling in our community. I have outlined our experience with the scheme with some suggestions for short-term and long-term measures and shared these with you at our meeting. You also have the 1995 paper (which I hope you can share with Anissa). I would like also to give you an overview of our objectives and some questions that we hope you can discuss with FEHD, with the aim at progressing toward providing Lamma with the facilities we need to optimise our ability to reduce waste to landfill.

This is what we would like you to share with FEHD:

Living Lamma would like to see Yung Shue Wan become Hong Kong’s first “zero waste community.” This target is progressive – something to work towards by identifying which items can be separated out of the general trash and over time reducing the amount of waste that needs to be transferred to landfill.

We have proven in that people are willing to separate their waste if it is convenient for them to do so. Lamma’s community was noted for its relative environmental awareness in a 1995 paper, which made suggestions for community recycling in Yung Shue Wan. None of the suggestions in that paper were adopted and our bin facilities have continued to be dumping grounds for all types of waste (ever more overflowing with increases in population). Seventeen years later, government assumes that the community needs to be educated about waste separation, when it is clear that people are more than willing to recycle.

Our first “zero waste” item is glass. We would like to see “zero glass to landfill” by the end of the year. We would then like to work on zero plastic, zero paper, zero metal, zero WEEE, zero food waste, and other items that are easily identifiable as being easy to separate and recyclable elsewhere in the world. So we require both a short-term and long-term action plan which we hope EPD and FEHD will be able to facilitate.


1. When can Yung Shue Wan get glass recycling bins?

We know where the glass is coming from and we know where the bars and restaurants usually deposit their waste. We also know which bars have not yet participated in the scheme. It should be easy to estimate the capacity required and provide bins of appropriate size at each of the 4 waste collection areas currently used by businesses on Main Street. Collection for domestic use can be provided at local bins or (as is common elsewhere) at a “bottle bank.”

2. When will the first WEEE collection day be held for larger items?

We see these items placed at the bins or stockpiled in our community (see the attached photo from yesterday – 3 washing machines, 2 TVs and a fridge). If they are left near the bins, the chances are that they will be taken to landfill.

3. Can FEHD instruct staff to keep items that are separated and reusable/recyclable at the bins separate from the general waste? 

Presumably EPD would have to arrange a collection point for these items within the WTS. What the public sees at the moment is one department telling we have to recycle and another one deliberately putting recyclable items in with the general waste that goes to landfill.

4. Can FEHD/EPD talk to the contractor who takes the recycling from the yellow, brown and blue bins and instruct them to urgently use different coloured plastic bags (can be the same for all three)?

One of the barriers to recycling is that there is a perception that all Lamma’s waste goes to landfill. This is because people see the recycling being collected by the same vv that collects the general waste and then all black plastic bags being put together. Living Lamma has being told by otherwise well-educated Westerners, who recycle in their home countries, that they don’t do so here because they don’t believe it is recycled.

5. We would also like to see regular permanent collection points for food waste and WEEE. How can this be achieved?

6. We would like to see the formulation of a strategic plan to the redesign of the bin areas to facilitate Yung Shue Wan becoming a “zero waste community.” This would include an assessment of the current method of waste collection and disposal (see attachment YSWBins), a constraints analysis and an out-of-the-box assessment of what could happen if things were done differently. Who would be responsible for devising such a plan? What is the best way for Living Lamma to share our experience in support of the plan? 

I will be out of Hong Kong now until 25th August. During this time Nick Bilcliffe and Daniel Clarke will be continuing Living Lamma’s work. I very much look forward to seeing the interim provision for permanent glass collection when I return.

Best regards


5th June 2012

Dear Anissa,

Many thanks for lunch today. It was very good to chat with you informally – a thought provoking discussion, which I hope to continue at a later date. And I would be very happy to meet you on Lamma.

By way of follow up, I would like to raise some particular concerns – perhaps Ellen can address these at our meeting on Thursday.

1. We have yet to receive firm assurances about what will happen once the 12 month pilot scheme comes to an end. Is this a serious attempt to introduce recycling in the community? The evidence (the limited operation and poor communication of the scheme) would suggest not.

I also met with a former head of Friends of the Earth this evening who told me that some years ago they got involved in a 6 month scheme to introduce food waste recycling in a housing estate. With their help, the scheme was a success, but there was never any additional funding to take things forward. Please assure me that we see the same thing happen on Lamma.

2. We have also not received a firm commitment to address the problems with the scheme and provide the necessary facilities to enable people to recycle on a daily basis. Is there an intention to do this or will we simply be given a list of excuses for why it can’t be done?

3. We still have not received a clear answer on who in government is responsible for bin design. Which department built the existing bin areas? Perhaps Ellen can address this also?

4. It occurred to me that, apart from the 1995 paper that I showed you which documented waste problems on Lamma and offered a blueprint for community recycling that could have reduced waste to landfill by over 50%, I haven’t seen any research which explores alternative solutions and presents viable alternatives at a community level in Hong Kong. Have any studies been undertaken?

As an example, here is a  2005 study of small-scale glass recycling for Scotland – clearly this type of approach could be replicated for different types of waste depending on the needs of the districts.

For another example from 2010 on recycling in high-rise blocks (note the cost to local councils for not recycling and the success factors for recycling schemes – note also that Scotland is mentioned again, with a smaller population than Hong Kong spread out over an area 70 times larger, which also includes many islands, yet clearly they are able to find solutions to logistical problems) – see attachment.