Late March might be a bit early to start thinking about mooncakes, but Hong Kong's consumers should be grateful that environmental groups are already planning ahead. Each year, city residents buy millions of tins of the Mid-Autumn Festival treat. The packaging - metal containers, with paper inserts and plastic knives included - all ends up in our over-burdened landfill sites. The fact that our rubbish dumps are filling up faster than they should and the government is considering incinerators and other drastic waste disposal options cannot be blamed on mooncake consumption alone. But the issue could be considered an indicator of how things might go in the future. Friends of the Earth, one of the groups that has long highlighted the mooncake packaging problem, has moved from just advocating recycling to now getting involved in the design of the packaging itself. The shift in focus from keeping the waste out of landfills to preventing the wasteful packaging from being created in the first place is significant. Success here may perhaps provoke a change in attitude among the producers of everyday items, many of which are also woefully overpackaged. The impact of such practices is not only environmental, it is also economic. Hong Kong taxpayers shell out billions of dollars each time existing landfills are exhausted and new ones have to be created. Incineration, an option now being considered and which might appear in government waste-treatment blueprints due out later this year, are likewise not cost-free. These are funds that could be freed up for use in more productive areas. Enlightened manufacturing will play an important role, but so will more progressive attitudes towards consumption and a helping hand from policy-makers. One of the best options, it seems, is to reduce the amount of unneeded packaging we take home in the first place. A rating system on mooncake packaging would raise awareness of the issue. Whether other manufacturing sectors turn it into a trend will depend in large part on how demanding buyers are on this front. A tax on plastic bags, long under consideration but yet to be implemented, should finally be brought in. The same goes for landfill charges for construction waste and a recycling levy on tyres. It is too bad that such anti-pollution measures did not find their way into the March budget speech, but it is hoped the policies will see the light of day sooner rather than later. The number of environmentally friendly mooncake boxes to be made for this year's festival might be as high as 300,000. It is still a small number - not even 10 per cent of the total number expected to hit the market. However, the effort to tackle waste at its source, rather than after the fact, is a sign of progress.