By Caspar Li & Sammi Ng
The “Take your litter home” campaign is a two-year program jointly organised by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and 17 other green and hiking groups. Aiming at promoting the importance of environmental protection and waste reduction, such campaign intended to raise public awareness on littering and overflowing rubbish bins in country parks and encourage hikers to pick up both trash and good habits while hiking. Hikers now will have to either take their trash home or throw them away at the entrance of the hiking trails.
A total of 533 bins have been removed since 2015 when the government first launched this campaign. Currently, there are only around 2,300 bins left in nearby country parks; and the bins along hiking trails are gone for good.
With the increase in number of new hikers every year, the amount of trash produced rises correspondingly. Since 2001, the number of hikers have soared from 11 millions to 13 millions in 2017. Respectively, the amount of rubbish collected along 11 trails has increased from 2100 to 3400 tonnes, with a slight drop from 3600 to 3400 tonnes after the implementation of the “Take your litter home” campaign in 2015.
However, less trash being collected does not necessary imply the amount of trash produced has dropped. With an original aim to seamlessly reduce the amount of waste produced by hikers during their “outdoor fun time”, the effectiveness of the campaign is highly arguable.
Mr Tsang, a 32-year-old Hong Kong hiker believes such scheme would only create more damage and harm to the environment.
“I enjoy taking photos on the mountain top, and I can only do so by hiking,” said Tsang. “I have been hiking for more than 5 years now and yes I am aware of the new rubbish bin scheme implemented by the government. I personally think that it is very inconvenient to the hikers since it is very hard for us to carry empty water bottles when we hike. The amount of trash I found at the top of the mountain has increased, I don’t think this campaign is very effective. It somehow forces tourists and hikers to litter as the BBQ site is too far away.”
A number of hiking groups has been supporting AFCD’s project by organising petition campaigns and volunteering over 100 events picking up trash on hiking trails.
The trailwatch Hong Kong has set up a smartphone app for waste dumping incidents. Under “incident reporting”, on average, 15 incidents were reported per month last year. The organisation highly recommend hikers to report immediately with location when a huge amount of trash is found. Trailwatch would then deliver the message to suitable departments on cleaning arrangements.
According to a survey done by environmental group Green Power, 4 out of 5 countryside visitors support the removal of rubbish bins campaign, while almost half of the respondents express reservations about a completely bin-free park. 70 percent of the hikers admit they had generated waste during visits to the countryside, at an average 2.2 pieces per person. Most of them still prefer to get rid of their trash as soon as possible instead of taking them outside the country parks.
“What makes our volunteer work meaningful is because Hong Kong citizens lack a sense of responsibility to protect and preserve the environment,” said Miss Cheng, a spokesperson for Green Power at the Wan Chai Environmental Resource Centre. “There are too many accessible rubbish bins in Hong Kong, without them, they don’t know what to do.”
This shows that even though more people are willing to support the bin-free campaign, most of them fail to carry it out by actions as they are not throwing away any less at hiking trails and country parks.
Due to limited resources and land, the Hong Kong government has introduced several schemes and measures to reduce waste, including the plastic bag levy in 2009 and the Computer & Communication Products Recycling Programme issued last year. With the municipal waste charging system planning to be launched in the second half of 2019, limiting the amount of public rubbish bins would effectively reduce the amount waste as people are forced to take their waste back home under this system.
In Taiwan, “cash for rubbish” waste disposal scheme is used to recycle cans and bottles in exchange for credits on their personal transportation smart cards. About the size of vending machines, these iTrash booths are placed mainly on popular streets.
Whilst in Japan, they treat their unique rubbish sorting system very seriously. Focusing on recycling and reusing waste as resources, Japan successfully recovers more than 80 percent of its plastic waste.
Of course, it is everyone’s responsibility to clean up their own trash. Hong Kong, being one of the Asia’s cleanest city with such dazzling natural scenery should be treasured. I believe a series of publicity and education activities for the public has to be organised to draw public’s attention in taking the initiative to clean up our environment. Tying in with the government’s plan on further reduction of litter produced in Hong Kong, enabling green living has to take root at the community level.
Last week, three hikers were caught pouring food waste down the hiking trail after having hot-pot on the top of the hill. Followed by the death of Billy the Pui O cow who died the next day because he ate enough plastic produced by the hikers to fill two rubbish bags.
Yesterday, two senior citizens were spotted carrying 2 bags of trash down the hiking trails. Claiming to be government’s custodial workers, the photo has arouse heated discussion on online forums. Netizens believe the hikers should be responsible for their own trash in order to lighten the workload of government’s cleaning agents.
In Hong Kong, 30% of its territory is covered by lush parklands and hiking trails, with nearly 200 miles of designate hiking path suitable for everyone, from families with children to fanatical hikers with gloves and headlights. Being one of the most renowned concrete jungles, Hong Kong offers one of the most precious and stunning views at the top of the mountains. Promoting its natural habitat and ecology landscape has to be part of the decision-makers’ strategies for advocating Hong Kong as a travel destination and a tourism hub.
“It is hard to make nature preservation obligatory,” said Miss Cheng. “At the end of the day, we rely hugely on volunteers to conserve what we have right now in order to provide a better future for the next generation.” She also invites everyone to take part in such a purposeful event in limiting our impacts on the environment.
Though we have the power to destroy, we certainly have the power to save it. Don’t wait until it’s too late, ACT NOW!
STORYMAP (TAI TONG NATURE TRAIL)
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More about the “Take Your Litter Home” Campaign here!