Right idea wrong scale

waste to energy

Handling food waste is a global problem, but is all food waste equal?  There is waste from dining generated in homes, restaurants, and Dai Pai Dong’s, and there is food waste from markets, wet markets, and supermarkets, the latter being merely past its sell by date. HKSAR Government intends to create four food waste to energy plants, but no mention of their location and tragically RTHK’s report confirms our fears, about 3,000 tonnes are dumped into landfill every day! That is 1,095,000 tonnes per year.

community, eco-districts, waste to energy

However, collection, handling, shipping it across the territory, and bulk storage in central facilities is the worst possible solution in my view. To tackle local problems we need local education and local solutions, shipping it “way” will only perpetuate the most common reaction NIBMY.

Eco-District or community scale solutions demonstrate locally there is no distant landfill to handle the waste, you use it, you see it, you handle the waste. Therefore encouraging participation in the solutions, today’s over emphasis towards Green/Smart cities overlooks an important aspect, the human scale. The biggest challenge for eco-districts will be success, where the WTE (waste to energy) plant and equipment is designed for the worst case scenario, and the neighbours begin to understand that their waste creates a local waste problem, over time the total volume of waste will shrink, leaving oversized equipment in its wake. We need District, not City scale solutions.

sustainable waste management

Landfilling is an unsustainable practice period, particularly so in Hong Kong where we have limited land available. Sustainable waste management changes our thinking about throwing  AWAY waste (and there is no AWAY) and embrace the community.

Out of sight out of mind thinking needs to be changed to locally transparent – you create it, it’s yours, it’s your local communities responsibility.  I have long argued for community based responsibility, for a waste management program simular to the program for industrial and residential recycling in Perth. To use waste is as local fuel to be used for a local power plant, produce Town gas, or even fuel.

We shouldn’t build these basic facilities hidden behind concrete walls, but we should be display case transparent, use glass for everyone to see the inner workings, host field trips for the local school children – engage not preach at the local community.

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is the local source of fuel used available locally, and using plasma or gasification plant (NOT INCINERATION) lowers the environmental impact and the noxious discharges. Being smaller than central facilities they could hook in to the local power grid infrastructure powering local homes or alternately creating fuel, power or Town Gas for the local people.

The real advantage is that people learn from the visual cues, upto 75% of learning is acquired visually, having a local visible and transparent facility is the prefect education solution.

— John A. Herbert, Consultant, Kelcroft