The forbidden city where diesel vehicles are banned

I came across this illustration named “the forbidden city” (figure 1) recently, which was an interesting allusion to Germany’s ruling to allow its cities to ban diesel vehicles, except for those that meet the Euro 6 emission standard, in restricted areas. The Euro 6 standard is an European emission standard that sets limits for exhaust emissions such as carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, etc, emitted by new vehicles manufactured in the European Union (EU).

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figure 1

The first European emission standard, Euro 1, was introduced in 1992, which was amended with stricter limits as time went by. The latest Euro 6 standard was adopted in 2014. The illustration tells the story of a forbidden city, where the blue vehicle, an Euro 6 automobile, is allowed in the city, and the red one, an Euro 5 vehicle, is banned. This points to Hamburg, the first German city that banned diesel vehicles that failed to meet the Euro 6 standard from entering some of its busy roads. More German cities will follow suit. Stuttgart will ban diesel vehicles of the Euro 4 or older standards from 2019. Frankfurt was obliged to implement the same ban on Euro 4 or older standards vehicles from February 2019, and a stricter ban on Euro 5 as well from September next year.

As more countries are on their ways to ban fossil fuel vehicles, more environmentally-friendly vehicles such as electric ones are the future. The road may be bumpier for some countries, but hopefully that leads to greener and more sustainable societies.


首個實施柴油汽車禁令的城市

最近看到以上名為「禁城」的報刊插圖(見圖一 figure 1),詼諧地報道了德國今年二月起允許各城市頒布柴油汽車禁令,除符合歐洲汽車廢氣排放標準(European emission standards)歐盟六期(Euro 6)的車輛外,德國城市可對不符合標準的柴油車實施限行。歐盟六期是由歐盟國家共同採納的歐洲汽車廢氣排放標準,限制了不同類型汽車的廢氣污染物排放,包括一氧化碳(CO)、碳氫化合物(HC)、氮氧化物(NOx)和懸浮粒子(PM)。

首個歐洲汽車廢氣排放標準為歐盟一期,於1992年推出,其後陸續加強收緊排放限值,最新的排放標準為歐盟六期,於2014年生效。插畫描述「禁城」禁止圖中紅色的汽車進城,因其為歐盟五期排放標準的車輛,而藍色汽車則為歐盟六期車輛,可在城內自由駕駛。插畫中的「禁城」就是漢堡,漢堡是德國首個對歐盟六期以外柴油車頒布限駛令的城市,嚴禁未達標的柴油車駛進部分繁忙道路,未來將有更多德國城市仿效。史特加(Stuttgart)將於2019年1月起對歐盟四期或以前排放標準的柴油車頒布禁令,而法蘭克福(Frankfurt)將於2019年2月緊隨其後,同年9月起更加禁歐盟五期車輛。

隨著越來越多國家制定禁止化石燃料汽車時間表,發展更環保的汽車如電動汽車是大勢所趨。這需要社會不同持份者的配合,雖然不易,但有助社會變得更環保和可持續發展。

Reverse vending machines may reverse decline in local recycling industry

Have you wondered where the recyclables collected by recycling bins will go? Are they really recycled at the end of the day? In Hong Kong there are 2800 recycling bins and they collect 4 tonnes of disposals every day, out of which 1.5 tonnes are non-recyclables that’ll end up in landfills. But the 2.5 tonnes of recyclables may just share the same destiny as the local recycling industry is facing a serious decline.

In the past the collected recyclables were exported, especially to mainland China. For example in 2011, 98.5% of collected waste was exported to the mainland. However over the past years, the mainland has been tightening their waste import regulations. The prices of waste exported from Hong Kong have been dropping, causing a serious blow to the recycling industry. This year China further imposed a regulation banning the import of 24 types of solid waste, making it harder for local recyclers to survive.

The problem with the local recycling industry is that it is too dependent on waste export markets and that the recycling culture in Hong Kong is not mature enough. To improve local recycling, in 2007 some local catering enterprises launched a batch of reverse vending machines (RVMs) to facilitate recycling. RVMs are vending machines that collect used plastic bottles or other recyclables, and reward users with coupons. This encourages recycling and more importantly, it automatically processes and sorts recyclables. Countries like Norway, Finland, Germany, America, China, etc are adopting RVMs to their benefits. However unlike these places, the practice didn’t work well in Hong Kong because of its voluntary nature, insufficient reward initiatives and a lack of promotion.

If recycling with RVMs is encouraged or even made mandatory by the government, RVMs will work as well in Hong Kong as in other cities. This year a mandatory producer responsibility scheme on glass beverage containers will go into effect, which will enforce the “polluter pays” principle in treating and recycling glass beverage containers. The scheme can in fact be implemented on other recyclables like plastics, cans and so on to share the responsibility of recycling among producers, retailers, consumers, etc. RVMs can complement the scheme to ensure the quality of recyclables. This can help establish a self-sufficient local recycling eco-system and develop Hong Kong into a green smart city.


逆向自動售貨機能逆轉香港回收業困境? 

全港有2800個分類回收桶,平均每天收集4噸回收廢棄物,但當中有1.5噸是不可被回收的,要被送到堆填區,然而另外2.5噸回收物料可能亦難逃棄置堆填區的命運,因為本地的回收業正面對嚴峻的回收市場,收回的回收物料可能前無去路。

以往香港的回收物料會出口到外地,尤以中國內地市場為主,在2011年,本港出口到內地的回收物料就高達98.5%。然而,近年內地提高入口物料要求,各類回收物料價格驟跌,對本地回收業造成嚴重打擊。今年內地更進一步禁止二十四種洋垃圾進口,讓本地回收商更難經營。

從回收商面臨的困境可見,最大的問題在於香港回收業過份依賴內地市場,加上本港回收風氣亦不盛行。為了改善回收風氣,2007年幾所大型餐飲企業推出了一批逆向自動售貨機,以積分制鼓勵市民回收飲品膠樽。逆向自動售貨機 Reverse Vending Machines(RVMs),又稱智能回收機,能自動收集、分類膠樽及其他回收物品,市民投入膠樽後,售貨機會回贈現金、積分或禮品劵等。RVMs現時有多個國家採用,如挪威、芬蘭、德國、美國、中國等等,成效顯著。然而RVMs在香港卻不像在這些國家般成功,2007年的回收計劃就因自願性質、缺乏宣傳、獎勵不夠吸引等原因成效不大。

現時政府正擬議塑膠產品容器生產者責任計劃,強制性讓污染者負擔處理及回收廢棄物的責任,相信屆時RVMs能成為有效的輔助工具,不但方便市民回收廢棄物,同時提高物料的質素,幫助回收業建立一個自給自足的生態環境。