By giving out umbrella covers when it rains, Hong Kong government ‘taking lead’ in plastic waste, green group says
Greeners Action investigation finds most bag handout points at 83 buildings lacked guidance for users
By giving out covers for umbrellas at buildings it manages, the Hong Kong government is “taking the lead in producing plastic waste”, a local green group declared on Thursday.
Greeners Action said it investigated 83 buildings managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department from July to August, and found 60 of them – or just over 7 in 10 – gave out plastic bags for umbrellas on rainy days.
Most bag handout points lacked any guidance for users, beyond one displaying a sign asking people to “make better use of umbrella bags”.
“We are very disappointed that while the government has been encouraging citizens to adopt a greener lifestyle, some departments have failed to follow their own environmentally friendly policies,” Greeners Action’s Yip Chui-man said.
In 2016 – the last year for which statistics are available – plastic comprised one-fifth of the 10,345 tonnes of municipal waste sent daily to Hong Kong’s landfills. The 2,000 or so tonnes of plastic waste is roughly equivalent to the weight of 135 double-decker buses.
According to Yip, the department in each of its annual reports from 2009 to 2016 said it would “seriously review” the need to provide umbrella bags to the public. She added the reports stated “plastic recycling bins would be provided to collect the used bags”.
Yip described this assurance as “not consistent with reality”, noting the group had found only 10 buildings with such recycling bins.
Lo Tsz-kiu, also with Greeners Action, added: “From our observation, it seems that the distribution of umbrella covers is not related to whether the ground is wet and slippery, and providing these covers does little to keep the floor dry.”
Yip recommended that a charge be levied for umbrella covers, similar to how shoppers are charged 50 HK cents (6 US cents) for each plastic bag they use at retail outlets.
Building managers should also be told to be more prudent about distributing umbrella covers, the group urged, and adopt different measures to keep the ground dry on rainy days, such as using carpets, setting up umbrella stands and deploying floor-drying machines.
Separately, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said on Thursday his bureau would propose legislation to charge households and businesses for the volume of waste they throw out, when the Legislative Council reconvenes later next month.
Under the plan, users would need to dispose of their waste in prepaid plastic bags. A bag would cost on average 11 cents for every litre of waste it can hold.