Professor touts ideas to cut waste

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 October, 2009, 12:00am

It is about time Lunar New Year fair stallholders and their customers spared a thought for the environment, a scientist says. He is urging the use of recyclable materials to build stalls and steps to reduce the amount of rubbish the fairs generate.

Dr Richard Cheung Yun-hing says the amount of waste the fairs generate is increasing and could make the city look bad in the eyes of tourists.

The government says the amount of waste from the fairs has fallen in the past two years, but Cheung says that is a temporary phenomenon because of the economic crisis.

'Hongkongers suddenly forget the environment-friendly habits of their daily lives when they visit Lunar New Year fairs. There are increasing amounts of rubbish collected from the fairs, mainly cardboard, paper and plastic bags. Paper wrappings are scattered on the ground. Polystyrene foam containers used in fast-food stalls are disposed of on the floor,' he said. Many aluminium cans, plastic forks and paper cups were also found.

More refuse and recycling bins should be installed at fairs, especially near fast-food stalls, Cheung said.

But 50 students he sent to check on fair waste also found temporary construction materials for stalls, such as lengths of bamboo and metal, and nylon sheets, among the rubbish.

That was because operators had to set up their own stalls, said Cheung, an associate professor in City University's department of biology and chemistry.

He urged the government to centralise construction of stalls at the 14 fairs. It could hire a contractor who would be responsible for providing the materials, and building and dismantling the stalls. The contractor could use more durable and reusable materials, such as those used for the stalls in Mong Kok's Ladies' Market and Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei, he said.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said 314 tonnes of rubbish were collected from the fairs this year, of which 107 tonnes came from the biggest, in Victoria Park. Last year, 465 tonnes of waste were collected, 130 tonnes of it from Victoria Park. In 2007, it was 554 tonnes, 153 tonnes of it from Victoria Park.

'The amount of waste is related to the economic situation,' Cheung said. As the economy improved, vendors would order more stock and that would generate more waste.