Effort needed to cut down on Hong Kong’s waste

A single strawberry wrapped with styrofoam on a straw nest inside a plastic-covered paper box has put the spotlight on excessive packaging. But some customs and habits must also be reviewed to stop Hong Kong being a wasteful society

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 2:14am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 2:14am

Astrawberry with a price tag of HK$168 (US$21.70) may not be to everyone’s taste. It looks even extravagant when the fruit, imported from Japan and sold in a local supermarket outlet, is individually wrapped with styrofoam on a straw nest inside a plastic-covered paper box. While the product may make a nice little Valentine’s Day gift to some people, it looks exceedingly wasteful to those who are environmentally conscious.

The strawberry gift box just adds to a long list of examples of what may be considered as excessive product packaging found in the city. Indeed, individual plastic packaging for fruit and vegetable items is so common across major supermarket chains that shoppers are left with little choice these days. It is good that an online petition against wrapping produce in plastic has been launched. Hopefully, it will gather sufficient public support to get the message across.

Hong Kong store selling strawberries individually wrapped - for HK$168 - defends its packaging

Unlike some overseas supermarkets which are mandated by law to donate unsold food to the needy, there is no such law in Hong Kong. This is not helped when there is a growing tendency for supermarkets to package almost everything for sale. The practice is said to keep produce in good condition and make transportation and barcode reading easier. But the material used is not necessarily biodegradable and is therefore harmful to the environment.

Apart from ditching unnecessary packaging, it is also necessary to review some customs and habits. The annual Lunar New Year fair and the tradition of giving lai see are a case in point. Some 200 million crisp, new banknotes are given out in an estimated 320 million red envelopes each year. The little packets are usually just thrown away, as are the flowers unsold at the fair. Credit goes to those who make efforts to recycle the paper and to donate the unsold plants to homes for the elderly.

From food packaging to customs and habits, there is still much room for improvement. Unless everyone does their part to cut down waste, Hong Kong will remain a wasteful society.