Green Island Cement received the go-ahead from Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department to move its pilot research project to incinerate waste in its cement kilns to the public consultation stage. The breakthrough comes after seven months of prolonged negotiations between the watchdog and the cement company. The public consultation will run until 26 June, after which Rob Law, EPD Director, will decide the project’s fate.
However, there are more hurdles to clear as the company is likely to be in line from strong opposition from environmental groups, politicians and Lung Kwu Tang residents who live near the plant. Opponents fear the incineration process will be detrimental to their health due to the possible toxicity of the emissions. Green Island have refuted this idea, claiming the high temperatures of the kiln (1200oC) will deal effectively with any toxins. It also commissioned a preliminary health assessment by environmental consultant CH2M-IDC, whose findings concluded that the cancer risk posed by the incineration would be well within acceptable levels.
If approved by the government, the $18m project will lead to the island's first large-scale waste incinerator since the closure of two waste-burning units in 1993 and 1997. During the pilot, the plant will incinerate a minimum of 40t of waste on a continuous basis for 16 weeks. Waste residues will then be used for cement making.
Funded in equal parts by the government’s Innovation Technology Fund and Green Island, it will translate into an improved competitive position for Green Island in the race to the government's multibillion dollar waste treatment projects. Green Island first raised the waste-incineration idea in 1999.