Construction Waste - Lessons from Hong Kong

By Ben Messenger

Construction Waste  Lessons from Hong Kong

Europe could learn from a series of construction waste management policies implemented in Hong Kong over the past two decades, according to the European Commission.

The Commission cited a recently published research article - Off-site sorting of construction waste: What can we learn from Hong Kong? - which found that the offsite construction waste sorting (CWS) programme was one of the most significant of those policies.

Construction waste management is a challenge that receives worldwide attention and the researchers suggested that the study provides an important reference for other countries working to minimise construction waste.

The Hong Kong government implemented a Waste Charging Scheme in 2006, based on the polluter pays principle. In line with the scheme, a construction contractor will be imposed a levy of HK$125 (€11.98) for every tonne of construction waste it disposes of at landfills and it will be levied HK$100 (€9.59) per tonne if the construction waste was accepted by off-site sorting facilities.

An offsite CWS programme was then introduced and two offsite waste sorting facilities were set up. The two offsite CWS facilities have successfully handled a total amount of 5.11 million tonnes of waste up to February 2012.

According to the research construction waste has been a large portion of the total solid waste processed by landfills in Hong Kong, reaching as much as 68% in 1991 and even at its lowest was 23% in 2007-2009.

The study evaluated the CWS programme by analysing existing studies, government regulations and statistics concerning construction waste and two case studies at the Tuen Mun construction waste sorting facility.

The findings reveal that the success of the offsite CWS programme is mainly attributable to:

  • Sustaining policy support from the Hong Kong government
  • Good policy execution
  • Encouraging offsite CWS through higher disposal charges
  • Implementation of the 'trip ticket' system.

The trip ticket system consists of a form detailing the load of waste for disposal filled by contractors, which in turn generates a receipt from the sorting facility to ensure contractors comply with policy. The system ensures construction waste is properly disposed of through tracking its destination.

While acknowledging the offsite CWS programme's success, the researchers added that there is room for further improvement. Proper location of the offsite CWS facilities, effective measurements of the proportion of inert materials (such as sand and brick), prevention of noise and dust at the CWS sites, and recycling recyclable materials rather than disposal are all areas that need work.

In Europe, the Waste Framework Directive includes a target of reusing, recycling or otherwise recovering 70% of construction and demolition waste by 2020.

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