An orchard's worth of ornamental citrus trees rotting in overflowing landfills couldn't be a worse way to start a new year.
A local environmental group estimated that Hong Kong will have discarded about 40,000 potted citrus plants - enough to fill 60 double-decker buses - following this Lunar New Year. Rather than the good fortune they are meant to symbolise, the waste of healthy plants seems more a sign of the thoughtless consumption that characterises most holidays around the world; a recent survey found that of the 50 million Christmas trees bought every year in the United States, 30 million end up in landfills. Call me a Grinch, but I find such reckless extravagance incomprehensible.
The Year of the Horse didn't begin with just wasted vitamin C. In a survey of Hong Kong residents by the same environmental group, more than half admitted to wasting food from Lunar New Year meals while 44 per cent said they bin food that has passed its expiry date in the days after the holiday.
The mandarin and the kumquat are native to Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, and China is now the world's biggest producer. In 2012, the country produced some 19.1 million tonnes of kumquats, mandarins and related citrus fruits. A large mandarin provides more than half the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and almost a third of vitamin A. Studies have linked the fruit to a reduction in the risks of developing certain cancers.
If you are about to throw out that wilting tree, why not consider putting the fruit in your belly, where it belongs? If you don't fancy your jam-making skills, you may be interested to know that the Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve (www.fungyuen.org) is collecting unwanted trees for replanting.