HONG KONG (SE): A low carbon producing lifestyle and an attitude of cherishing natural resources are the two keys to solving Hong Kong’s waste problem, while the government proposal to impose waste disposal charges appears to be only an economic incentive to reduce waste.
The Environment Bureau proposed a Waste Not and Turn Green incentive programme on March 20, saying that it intends to place a charge on municipal solid waste, but nothing is expected to happen before the second half of 2019 at the earliest.
Father Simon Lee Che-yuen, the parish priest of St. Benedict’s in Shatin, told the Kung Kao Po that the bulk of parish waste comes from disposable items thrown away after celebrations.
The other main item is the paper towels used in the washrooms. He pointed out that there would be far less rubbish from the parish if parishioners could use less of such items.
He shared that the parish had once given out a set of reusable eating utensils to parishioners so that they do not need to use disposable ones during Church celebrations, but few remember to bring them when events are organised.
He encourages them to follow the good example of people joining the free meal programme in the parish, as they do remember to bring their own eating utensils and containers in order not to waste the leftovers, but he regrets, often to no avail.
Father Li said they used to have a three-minute sharing session before Mass on the message of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home, and the parish also gave out leaflets promoting environmental awareness and encouraging people to work on changing their wasteful habits.
Father Patrick Sun Ing-feng, from St. Patrick’s in Lok Fu, said he believes that waste disposal charges are only an economic incentive to reduce waste, while the root cause of the problem lies in whether the general public, including the Church, is willing to lead an environmentally friendly life or not.
But in the event of waste disposal charges being imposed, he said that the parish will negotiate with the adjoining St. Patrick’s School to share the cost.
The parish has been developing an environmentally friendly charter over the past seven years, urging parishioners to lead a green family life.
It also urges its staff to reduce the amount of waste produced in administrative work, while catechumen classes and Sunday schools are encouraged to give out newsletters and teaching materials in computer format.
Father Sun said many parishioners have developed a habit of putting waste in recycle bins, but he hopes that they can also learn how to adopt a low carbon producing lifestyle.
He explained that many parishioners tend to set the air-conditioning at below 20 degrees in summer during Church activities and he has reminded the parish council to set a more acceptable temperature to save on the electricity costs.
Catherine Hung Hing-ling, the secretary of the Messengers of Green Consciousness, said she believes that the charge could help people reduce waste production and enhance their awareness of recycling.
The group has been involved in recycling waste, subscribing to electronic newspapers, using rechargeable batteries and donating used electronic products to recycling outlets.
She explained that their office in a residential village house in Ngau Tau Kok will need to pay the waste disposal charges on households if it is introduced.
Hung explained that her organisation has asked staff to take their own rubbish home after work so that they will come to understand how much waste they produce every day and think about how to reduce the amount.
She explained that now the group only has to throw out rubbish every three days. The practice has been adopted for a year.
Hung said she believes that the source of waste production is connected with materialism and excessive packaging.
She believes waste reduction needs the cooperation of manufacturers as well as the awareness of people in choosing products with less packaging and wrapping. It is also important for people to change their bad habits of over spending.