Shoppers at some city malls will have their umbrellas wiped dry on rainy days rather than having the usual plastic bags to catch their brollies' drips.
Cleaning staff with a towel in their hands will be stationed at the main entrances of four malls under Sino Property Services on rainy days. Umbrella bags will not be necessary after the umbrellas are wiped dry.
The initiative, which began yesterday, was a response to a study conducted by Greeners Action in July. The green group estimated that 18 million plastic umbrella bags, costing HK$2 million, are used in one rainy season.
Malls joining the campaign are Olympian City, China Hong Kong City, Tsim Sha Tsui Centre and Empire Centre. The commercial building Skyline Tower, which is the headquarters of Sino Property Services, is also included in the scheme.
'Staff can wipe the umbrellas dry in five to seven seconds,' Sino Land executive director Sunny Yeung Kwong said. Cleaning staff responsible for the job had received training on how to wipe umbrellas dry swiftly, he said. Current employees will handle the task.
The group would extend the service to all its 11 malls and 70 commercial buildings before next summer, Yeung said. He hoped it would cut the use of umbrella bags by 60 per cent.
Umbrella bags made from recycled materials would gradually replace conventional plastic bags in all of the malls, Yeung said. The malls also introduced umbrella racks, which lock umbrellas in place - owners get keys to release them. Shopper Weely Ng said she appreciated having racks to use. 'But there aren't enough [racks],' she said, referring to the large number of shoppers who take umbrellas with them on rainy days. 'I may forget my umbrella if I put it in the rack,' said Mandy Tang, who has lived in Olympian City for two years.
Since the 50-cent levy on plastic bags came into effect on July 7, about 80 per cent of shoppers had taken their own bags, the Retail Management Association said.
But only 39 per cent of respondents made use of the covers provided with new umbrellas, the Greeners Action survey found.
Swire Properties was considering other options to reduce the use of umbrella bags, a spokeswoman said. Racks may not be convenient for shoppers who enter and exit a mall at different entrances, she said.