Hong Kong’s Open Secret

By Jay Raju Ganglani, Mathew Wong, Akane Nakasuji         

It’s no secret that the environment and pollution are two of the most important, but neglected areas of Hong Kong’s society today.

Recently, New Zealand announced that they are going to be banning the use of plastic bags with an NZ$100,000 fine on retail shops that continue to keep plastic bags. While Hong Kong supermarkets often charge $0.50 for a plastic bag, there are no strict guidelines for the use of plastic bags in Hong Kong.

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A forgotten Plastic Bag outside the Kowloon Tong MTR Station.

Furthermore, Hong Kong also has a major air pollution issue due to motor vehicles, marine vessels, and power plants. In order to combat the issue, the Hong Kong Environmental Bureau had launched the ‘A Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong’ campaign back in March 2013 in an attempt to tackle air pollution in Asia’s World City.

(Hidden Pollution Video: South China Morning Post)

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The graph above illustrates a significant decrease in the number of recorded instances (per hour) where there was an AQHI index of above 6 within the different areas of Hong Kong. For example, Hong Kong Island shows a fluctuating set of numbers which presents us the fact that Asia’s World City was a generally more polluted during 2014 than it is now in 2018.

A survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong shows that a large number of people are being affected by air pollution in Hong Kong. In particular, late 2014 and early 2015 saw an increase in the number of doctor visits which was also the same period that saw AQHI scores of above 6.

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(Source: HKU – Public Health Study)

According to Mr. Wong Kam-sing, the Secretary for the Environment in Hong Kong, the Government is also highly concerned about the environmental impact of plastic waste. In addition, the Government is heavily committed towards organising various activities for Hong Kong citizens to help encourage a reduction in waste amongst the general public.

For the time being, however, Hong Kong continues to remain well behind major cities such as Singapore, Toronto, and Seoul in terms of their solid waste recovery rate.

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Ryan Mok, a Year 2 Environmental Studies student at York University in Toronto, stated that we “need to create, organise, and participate in events that help protect the environment as well as introduce educational programs on reducing pollution in Hong Kong”. He further added that there are “many factors that contribute or factor into the pollution in Hong Kong, such as the larger number of cars and therefore traffic in the streets every day, smoking and the power stations and industries generating electricity”.

However, Professor Peter Brimblecombe, the chair professor of Atmospheric Environment at the City University of Hong Kong, has a different opinion. Mr. Brimblecombe stated that “hosting activities may only reach a small number of people”. He strongly believes that schools may be a more effective route as “children often influence parents in environmental and pollution-related matters”.

Ryan also added that “as of today, Hong Kong has its own plastic bag levy, where people are encouraged to bring their own plastic bags instead of having to pay 50 cents for a plastic bag in a supermarket”. As a result, he hopes that more people in Hong Kong will begin to bring in their own bags and therefore fewer plastic bags will be bought in supermarkets.

In a similar vein, Professor Brimblecombe believes that while New Zealand may aim to ban plastic bags by 2020, it is not clear how effective this is likely to be. He believes that the current Hong Kong regulations for plastic bags are “good, but need to be strongly imposed”.

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However, Ryan remained skeptical on whether plastic bags will be banned in Hong Kong in the future by stating that it depends on “how many people are convinced or know about the consequences or implications of plastic bags”.


Posted by: Jay Raju GANGLANI

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