Fire and water breathe new life into waste, offering a vision of a green future

The waveform-style roof spans the facility
T-Park Towers
T-Park fountain
T-Garden, featuring a zen sand and rock area
Tyres upcycled into cosy ottomans
Denim jeans given an second life
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T-Park

Located across the border from Shenzhen, T-Park (standing for Transformation Park) is a pioneering facility in Hong Kong that aims to reduce city waste and encourage sustainable practices. Spanning 2,800 square metres, the complex is designed to blend with the surrounding environment. Its wave-form architecture reflects and integrates with the sea view to the front and the natural hillsides at the back. With construction completed in late 2014, operations commenced in early 2015. Primarily serving as a sludge treatment facility, its continuous operations help relieve the city’s landfill capacity burden while generating energy to support T-Park’s entire operational needs. It was built from recyclable, durable and low-maintenance materials. T-Park also incorporates educational and leisure facilities for public use. Its gardens are home to native species of birds and plants, with pathways and sitting areas seamlessly interacting with the environment.

T-Gallery

We join the English tour and are led up to T-Gallery. Here, miniature models provide easy-to-comprehend visual cues as the guide neatly breaks down the complex processes involved in sludge waste treatment. To sustainably handle the city’s various biowaste, T-Park receives all of Hong Kong’s sludge from the city’s eleven major sewage treatment works (including Stonecutters Island, Stanley, and Sai Kung). Daily, an eye-popping three million cubic metres of sewage waste is created in Hong Kong. Once treated, this leaves about 1,200 tonnes of sludge that needs to be disposed of. At T-Park, extensive incineration and filtration systems convert ninety per cent of that troublesome sludge into usable electricity and water.

We’re then ushered into a red cylinder for an inside look at how the incinerators work. Known as fluidised bed incinerators, two are fitted into each of T-Park’s two plants. This stage is essential. Without further treatment, sludge is an inefficient energy source. By going through the incinerators, the sludge is burned at 850 degrees Celsius for at least two seconds. This controls the formation of organic pollutants. As a bonus, the heat energy generated from the process is recovered to produce steam for power generation. The sludge is then pulled through a dry reactor, which removes heavy metals, acidic gases, and organic compounds. Bag filters remove ash particles and unwanted by-products.

The facility runs as smoothly as a finely calibrated wristwatch

The super-heated steam from the initial process enters the incinerator’s steam turbine to start generating power. As the steam turns the blades, this momentum drives the generator and converts steam energy into electricity. Besides powering T-Park, surplus capacity of up to two megawatts can be exported to the public grid, providing power for up to four thousand households.

T-Park

Venturing into T-Park, we go back out again in search of birds. Six species are commonly found in the territory: white-bodied little egrets; common chestnut-coloured tree sparrows; squat little grebes; common kingfishers in their stunning blue, green, and orange tones; white-winged Chinese pond herons; and yellow-green Chinese bulbuls. Besides our feathered friends, dragonflies, butterflies, and small amphibians also call T-Park home. Most of the birds prove shy that day, preferring to stay at the highest tree branches, camouflaged among all the foliage. We do catch sight of two wandering Chinese bulbuls and capture one of them on camera.

T-Roof

We head up to T-Roof. The low glass railing provides an unobstructed view of Deep Bay. As we walk around the area, many of the plants are easily identifiable on sight. Bold, purple coleus thrives in bushes. Low-level pine trees bare their pointed offerings. Yucca trees could be mistaken for palms if it weren’t for their broad trunks and densely packed leaves. A cluster of birds of paradise flowers looks parched and faded under the scorching sun. Red bauhinias blossom in towering bushes that hover well above my head. It is only for the heat that we scurry back indoors, desperate for an air-conditioned respite.

T-Spa & T-Sky

While others splash in the waters of T-Spa – three spa pools offering different temperatures and another seamless view of Deep Bay – we head towards T-Sky. Located on the top floor of the administrative building, T-Sky provides a stunning panoramic view of the surrounding area with its floor-to-ceiling windows. To the left, visitors can see the Tsuen Mun landfills and Y-Park, a subsection of T-Park focused on reclaiming wood that would otherwise be thrown in the landfills and repurposing the scrapped material. To the right, Deep Bay and Shenzhen glitter in the afternoon sun. We admire the upcycled furniture created onsite as we wander around the area. A bar counter comprises shining glass bottles and a smooth wooden countertop. Two giant, wooden industrial wheels are easily remodelled into low round tables. New life is given to abandoned denim jeans, which now serve as the upholstery for several stools that slot neatly into the round tables.

T-Cafe

T-Cafe is similarly furnished. The self-service cafe offers visitors light refreshments, cakes, small sandwiches, and a neat selection of hot and cold beverages. Once you’ve collected your order, there’s an entire selection of environmentally friendly tables and chairs. A significant amount of seating is made of salvaged fender wood. When the old Wan Chai ferry pier was set for demolition in 2013, the group rescued the otherwise tossed timber. It now exists throughout T-Park in the form of landscape works and furniture.

T-Park’s automatic systems were carefully crafted to integrate the various engineering components of its sludge and wastewater treatments. With over four thousand pieces of machinery and fifty to sixty thousand data collection points, the facility runs as smoothly as a finely calibrated wristwatch. Beyond its heavy machinery, its education centre and gardens elevate this state-of-the-art treatment facility to more than its functionality.

Text & photos by Victoria Mae Martyn