Produce as little waste as possible

I AM pleased that E. Wong feels that the Government is doing well in its efforts to raise people's environmental consciousness (''Feeling Green about the edges'', South China Morning Post, August 24).

The messages we are trying to promote are concerned with producing as little waste as possible. Campaigns such as the ''Bring Your Own Bag'' advertisement, show how easy it is for everyone to contribute towards saving the environment. Using refills whenever possible and choosing products with less packaging are other ways in which everybody can cut down on waste. The 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) principle well describes the concept of waste minimisation, and recycling is last on the list.

Most of Hong Kong's recycled paper goes into packaging materials such as cardboard, and many of us are using it without even knowing. Higher quality recycled papers, such as stationery, have to be imported and are, as E. Wong states, more expensive. Making recycled paper at home is possible, but it is time-and energy-consuming and not generally practicable in large quantities.

Separate collection of waste for recycling is only viable if a ready market exists for the recycled products. Such is the case in Hong Kong for paper, steel and aluminium, but unfortunately the same cannot be said of plastic and glass bottles. As far as glass bottles are concerned, if the products are locally bottled, they can usually be returned for reuse. Other bottles, such as those used for imported drinks, are more of a problem. Hong Kong simply does not support a large market for recycled glass.

If they are undamaged and clean, small paint and hardware shops may be interested in using them for selling liquids, but demand remains limited.

For waste that has a ready market, it is not too difficult to arrange collection. At present, the most effective way of starting a recycling programme is for a group of residents within a particular building to agree, with the building management and cleaning contractor, on arrangements for separating and collecting waste. Many offices and residential buildings in Hong Kong already operate such schemes for waste paper.

In addition, the Urban and Regional councils, being responsible for domestic waste collection, have been operating pilot waste separation schemes with varying degrees of success. One such scheme, recently completed in City One, Sha Tin has produced a high level of participation, but others are not so encouraging. I hope I have been able to clarify the situation. If E. Wong would like further information on any of the above, I will be very pleased to assist.

M. C. UTTLEY for Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands