November 30, 2023
Continuous Improvements in Countryside Waste while Hiker-Wildlife Coexistence Worth Our Attention

Local green group Green Power announced today (30 November) the latest findings of its annual “Hong Kong Countryside Rubbish Survey” (1)conducted since 2016. This on-going survey aims at investigating the habits of Hong Kong people in the countryside, as well as the waste generated and disposed of as a result of their countryside travel. The latest result showed that more people reported fewer trips to the countryside, with the monthly average of 3.2 visits down to 2.5 this year.

The problem of countryside waste has continued to improve, with less than 40% of the respondents agreed that waste on hiking trails is severe, a steady decline from its record high of nearly 70% in the past years. The survey also found that more visitors are forming the practice of “take your litter home” with over 60% claimed that they were willing to take away their rubbish. The amount of plastic waste generated from each countryside visit has dropped to less than two items for the first time, with an average of 1.5 items per visit.

Mr. Henry Lui, Senior Conservation Manager of Green Power, pointed out that the number of visitors to the countryside has gone down from the peak recorded during the pandemic years. This, together with the growing environmental consciousness among members of the public, has brought about a much-welcomed on-going improvements to the problem of countryside waste. He hoped that with the doubling of littering fines, it will further reduce waste generation at source and allow better preservation of the natural environment and wildlife.

Continuous Improvement on Countryside Waste Issue

The survey showed that 37% of the respondents visited the countryside less this year than they did last year , citing “less free time” (57%) and “change in habits due to the end of the pandemic” (45%) as the main reasons . Additionally, there were 2.5 visits to the countryside overall this year, down from an average of 3.2 visits per month last year, which is a decline of more than 20%. About 30% of the respondents, however, claimed to have visited the countryside more this year than previous years, citing a “change in habits due to the pandemic” (40%) and “more leisure time” (36%). Mr. Lui emphasised that although society is resuming normal, the survey reflected the long-term impact brought by the visitor boom during the pandemic. He pointed out that regardless whether the number of visitors had gone up or down, pandemic-related behavioural changes continued to be a significant factor worthy of attention.

Regarding the handling of countryside waste, the proportion of respondents who considered that waste on hiking trails to be severe dropped from 67% in 2021 to 36% this year. However, over half of the respondents believed that waste in the coastal areas, barbecue pits and camping sites was severe. Mr. Lui urged the public to be mindful of the waste problem at all times when they are enjoying the countryside.

Among the types of waste discarded, tissue paper was the most common (66%), followed by food packaging (65%), plastic bags and disinfectant wipes (40%). On average, each visitor produced one to two pieces of such rubbish during their outings, similar to last year.

The survey found that more people (75%) reported generating plastic waste during their countryside visits though the average number of plastic waste per visitor has decreased from 2.2 items to 1.5 items this year, a record low since the survey began. Mr. Lui expected that with more disposable plastic products to be covered under the regulation, the number of such items used on outings will reduce further.

With regard to the disposal of waste in the countryside, the survey showed that over 60% of the respondents would take away their own rubbish, practising the habit of “Take Your Litter Home”. The survey also found that half of the respondents were willing to take fruit peels away, which was up from 30% in the survey’s early years. Mr. Lui believed that it was a result of green education, and he reminded the public that organic matters take longer to decompose and may bring hygiene issues, so the best practice is to take all rubbish away from the countryside.

Countryside Waste Affecting Wildlife

Hong Kong’s countryside is gifted with a rich ecological environment with a high level of biodiversity, and everyone should make an effort to preserve it. The survey showed that more than a quarter of the respondents agreed that “feeding wild animals” and “leaving waste in the countryside” were most baneful to wildlife. Nearly 80% of the respondents claimed that they were aware that the regulations against illegal feeding of wildlife had been tightened last year. However, around 50% said they were not sure about the details of the amended regulations and thought that the regulations had not been very effective. Other than that, most of the respondents acknowledged the negative impact of discarding rubbish in the countryside, including that wild animals might “ingest waste” (48%) and “alter wild animals’ feeding habits” (21%).

Mr Lui further explained that the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap. 170), amended by the authorities last year, prohibits feeding any wild animals across Hong Kong. He pointed out that feeding would undermine wild animals’ ability to forage in nature and that easy access to food would result in excessive breeding, which may ultimately increase conflict between animals and humans. He hoped the public could understand the underlying impacts and refrain from feeding wildlife.

Most of the respondents claimed that they would be willing to adhere to certain environmentally-friendly practices, such as not feeding wildlife, taking away the rubbish after visiting, and avoiding using disposable items. Mr. Lui was pleased to see the growing awareness to environmental and wildlife protection. He expected that more people would follow these green practices while visiting nature.

The 31st Clean Up the World in Hong Kong

With support from HK Electric, Green Power is organising the 31st Clean Up the World in Hong Kong this year, with “Wildlife Friends” as this year’s theme. It seeks to educate the public about the fascinating wildlife commonly found in Hong Kong, and encourage them to adopt green practices while visiting the countryside. This winter, HK Electric Volunteers will venture into the countryside to carry out two rounds of BioBlitz, documenting local wildlife and promoting animal-friendly messages to countryside visitors.

Clean Up the World in Hong Kong Facebook Page:

Clean Up the World in Hong Kong Instagram account: @cleanuptheworldhk

(1) The annual “Hong Kong Countryside Rubbish Survey” was first launched in 2016. This year’s survey was conducted between 26th September and 24th October, 2023. A total of 307 successful responses were received. The survey was conducted online with respondents 16 years old or above, and had visited the countryside within the past year.

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