Start an education campaign to keep country parks litter-free

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 May, 2015, 1:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 May, 2015, 1:02am

Hong Kong's country parks must be some of the world's biggest rubbish tips. Fortunately, that is only when you take into account total area, and not the amount of trash left behind by the estimated 11.7 million visitors last year. That said, the sight of waste piled up next to overflowing bins and litter scattered around in an otherwise unspoiled environment is affronting to feelings of harmony with nature. Visitors left more garbage in the parks in the last financial year than for 10 years. This has prompted a coalition of five green groups to launch a campaign to persuade them to leave parks as they would like to find them - and take their rubbish home with them.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department data show that some 3,800 tonnes of trash was collected from country parks last year - 100 tonnes more than in each of the previous two years, and the highest since 4,100 tonnes was recorded in 2003-04. This amounts to 320 grams of waste per person, equivalent to 40 plastic bags or 11 medium-size 600-750 millilitre bottles.

The green coalition's 'Tidy Up, Bring it Back' campaign is aimed first at reducing both litter and the amount of waste dumped in country park bins, and eventually at reducing the number of bins. The latter makes more sense than would seem at first glance. The coalition argues that bins in remote areas are not only difficult to empty, but their distance from civilisation encourages visitors to leave their rubbish behind. The department has already cut the number of bins from 2,800 to 2,400 over the last three years, mainly along long-distance hiking trails.

Paul Zimmerman, a member of coalition partner Save Our Country Parks, says garbage bins should be removed: "Whatever you bring in, take it out." We would like to see that. Meanwhile, we would happily settle for an effective anti-trash education campaign that enhances everyone's enjoyment of the parks and safeguards the environment of the city's "lungs".