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New Year a drain on the planet

Celine Sun

Hongkongers give out 70 million lai see packets each year and a green group is urging the public to adopt more environmentally friendly habits during the Lunar New Year holiday.

It urged people to use recyclable packets with fold-in flaps instead of those sealed with adhesive strips.

The group estimated that each Hong Kong family throws away an average of 30 lai see packets after the Lunar New Year, making a total of 70 million.

'This is equivalent to cutting down 3,600 trees,' said Green Power's Cheng Luk-ki.

Mr Cheng called on people not to use red packets with their surnames printed on them or those featuring animals from the Chinese zodiac, which could only be used in the year they represented.

The group highlighted several holiday habits that threaten the environment, including using brand-new banknotes in lai see packets, using excessive gift wrapping, discarding furniture and electrical appliances as part of the 'spring cleaning' tradition, and eating endangered species such as reef fish.

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'Using the banknotes as an example, most people prefer to give away new notes to friends and relatives, but they've never thought about the amount of paper, energy and print ink that goes into the production of these notes,' Mr Cheng said.

The group hoped people would give away used banknotes rather than freshly printed ones, donate used goods and clothing to charities and eat less exotic dishes.

'We hope everybody can treasure each item which is still usable,' Mr Cheng added.

Another green group, Friends of the Earth, said many festive products such as rice cakes and fruit baskets, were overpackaged.

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'Although the government has always been encouraging producers to recycle wrapping paper, it won't really be effective until the authorities come up with a law forcing manufacturers and packaging designers to consider the recycling issue,' a spokesman for Friends of the Earth said.

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