Anger as country parks left strewn with Mid-Autumn Festival litter

Holiday crowds slammed by social media users and residents as waste mars countryside beauty

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 3:53am

Picnickers are littering country park barbecue sites, leaving scenic spots looking like eyesores.

Photographs taken on mornings after the Mid-Autumn Festival days last week provide evidence of widespread disregard for Hong Kong's anti-littering laws, with tonnes of rubbish being left for government workers to clear up.

The littering was particularly bad at sites in and around Sai Kung Country Park - a popular spot for barbecues over the Mid-Autumn Festival.

One spot on Tai Mong Tsai Road was strewn with plastic food containers, beer cans, polystyrene boxes, cigarette packets and remnants of food, while litter stockades lay virtually empty just metres away.

The sites are managed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), rather than the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), whose officers are empowered to issue fixed-penalty fines of HK$1,500 for littering.

Social media users reacted with anger, disgust and sadness after some of the photos were posted on the Facebook page of Friends of Sai Kung (FSK).

Many were outraged and said more public education was needed to drive home the message that people should value the countryside and not expect others to clean up for them.

One person said that, upon reminding a group of people to clear up after themselves; they replied: "What will the cleaners do if we do not dump our rubbish?"

Karina O'Carroll, of Friends of Sai Kung, said the problem was that people were too reliant on others cleaning up after them.

"FSK is of the mindset that everyone should take only pictures and leave only footprints," she said.

"The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department should not be expected to clean up after people who leave their rubbish strewn all over the place.

"The FEHD in previous months has been increasing the number of bins on the waterfront and at various other locations they have been asked to by current FSK members and ex-committee members.

"We all know Hong Kong has a waste issue, but until people start taking ownership of their rubbish, this mess will continue."

Southern district councillor Paul Zimmerman said the problem was territory-wide.

"There is an attitude in Hong Kong that there is always someone to clear up the mess," he said. "It starts with fast-food restaurants, where there is always someone there to clean up tables.

"People get up and go, and it is very unlike Europe or the [United] States, where you are expected to clean up after yourself. Fast-food restaurants in Hong Kong, like McDonald's, need to rethink their waste disposal areas so people will be more inclined to clean up.

"People arrive at barbecue sites with everything in a plastic bag and they could use those bags to wrap up the rubbish and take it with them."

He created a Facebook page yesterday reminding people to clear up ahead of the impending Severe Typhoon Usagi, which would blow rubbish into the sea.

The FEHD declined to comment on the photographs posted online, saying that barbecue sites were the responsibility of the AFCD, which deploys clean-up staff to the sites on a daily basis.

Last year, AFCD clean-up patrols collected 19 tonnes of litter from Sai Kung Country Park during the festival period.