Higher fines help snuff out wax burners' little explosions

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 September, 2003, 12:00am

There have been only 121 warnings against the dangerous activity

The number of warnings issued for wax burning this Mid-Autumn Festival has plunged, apparently in response to the threat of a new $1,500 littering fine for the offence.

There were just 121 verbal warning issued on Wednesday, when 1,000 officers for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department launched a three-day crackdown on wax burning. The activity is common among children during the festival and involves pooling wax to create small explosions.

Last year, there were 11,000 warnings issued over the course of a similar three-day operation. The corresponding figures for 2001 and 2000 were 17,000 and 14,000 respectively.

The officers this year have been patrolling parks, playgrounds and beaches that are managed by the department. There have been no reports of wax-related injuries.

A department spokesman said the comparatively small number of warnings so far this year might be related to the on-the-spot littering fine, which was raised from $600 to $1,500 in late June as part of efforts to improve hygiene in the wake of the Sars outbreak.

'The hefty fine may be one of the reasons. The public also seem to have a stronger awareness on the importance of environmental protection,' the spokesman said.

He said officers would issue warnings if they spotted behaviour which they thought was linked to wax burning, such as the lighting of many candles in a container.

In addition to the new littering fines, there are specific rules which prohibit spilling wax on department grounds, such as parks. Offenders are liable to pay a maximum fine of $2,000 and face 14 days' imprisonment.

'It is important that the public should remind themselves of the importance of keeping our environment clean and not burn wax when enjoying the festival,' the spokesman said.

The Housing Department has also despatched officers during the festival to patrol more than 100 public housing estates to catch litterbugs. Tenants will have five points deducted for wax burning under the new demerit points system for public flats.

A Housing Department spokeswoman said 44 verbal warnings were issued to children at public housing estates for boiling wax and littering on Wednesday.