HK govt received 10,000 fly-tipping complaints, took 80 to court
Government departments received more than 10,000 complaints about illegal dumping of construction waste last year, but prosecuted only 80 cases.
The Environmental Protection Department, which had received 1850 complaints, was responsible for 75 of the prosecutions, according to a paper compiled for the Legco Environmental Affairs Panel.
The paper, which has been prepared ahead of a panel discussion next Monday, does not say how many of those prosecutions were successful, or what penalties were imposed.
But it does reveal that the total number of complaints filed to the EPD and the Lands, Highway, Food & Health and other departments had increased 39% over the three years to the end of 2017 (see chart above).
Construction waste was dumped without authorisation on a Pui O wetland plot last November (see photo above) but the EPD has taken no action against the owner, Au-Yeung Kam Ping.
Interestingly, the EPD has said it has surveillance camera footage of dumping taking place on Au-Yeung’s site. However, according to the Legco paper, no such camera exists anywhere on Lantau.
The Legco hearing follows a scathing report by the Audit Commission on the EPD’s repeated failures in tackling illegal waste dumping. It found that the department was almost totally reactive in dealing with the issue, waiting for public complaints rather than initiating its own inspections.
The figures above indicate that even when it receives a public complaint it rarely takes action.
The Environmental Affairs Panel hearing on the enforcement of fly-tipping laws takes place at 2:30pm next Monday.
Reusable cups at Caffe Paradiso
Caffe Paradiso coffee shop in Mui Wo has started selling reusable cups.
It is not the first on Lantau to do so, but it is the first to sell these collapsible cups (below).
As Caffe Paradiso owner Tom Midgley explains, “People didn’t like the tall cups sold by Starbucks. They are too big to carry around all day and they leak,” he said.
So he tracked down these from a US supplier.
The genius of the design is that the pliable main body, made of silicone plastic, becomes a firm surface by the addition of the white sleeve.
It then collapses into a convenient shape with a sealed lid.
Tom, who’s selling them for HK$120 each, says he’s almost sold out the first pack of 36 in the first week. He has ordered a second batch.
“I’ve already saved a lot of paper cups. And when you think some of those people buy a coffee every day, that’s about 300 cups and lids a year we’re saving.”
Lam won’t condemn wetland dumping or amend law to stop it
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has refused to condemn wetland dumping and has ruled out any changes to the law to preserve Lantau and other threatened areas.
Lam admitted in Legco yesterday that there were “loopholes in the law” but said that some “behaviour that looks like it is harming the ecology may not in fact be illegal.”
Lam’s comments, her first on the issue since protestors dumped waste on her doorstep on Sunday, were in response to a question from legislator Eddie Chu, who brandished a toilet seat found in a Pui O landfill.
Chu asked the CE if she would condemn those who “have exploited legal loopholes” to damage Coastal Protection Area land on South Lantau.
He also asked if she would amend the law to ensure its preservation.
Lam declined to answer, but acknowledged there was “room for improvement in monitoring and enforcement.”
She called for stronger public education “to protect our beautiful coastline and other rural areas.”
Lam’s responses fail to distinguish between fly-tipping, which is illegal, and landfilling, which has become government-authorised waste dumping in rural areas.
They also fly in the face of her own policy, which is to conserve South Lantau generally and Pui O wetland specifically.
In her October policy address Lam said Lantau would be conserved by the new Sustainable Lantau Office, based on the Sustainable Lantau Blueprint issued last June.
“Measures for conservation of Pui O wetland are being explored,” it states.
Yet when it comes to ensuring these “treasured” ecosystems can be preserved, Lam not only is unable to offer any “measures” – she cannot find fault with the steady destruction taking place.
It is clear the CE has no intention of taking on powerful rural interests to stop wetlands from disappearing under a mountain of construction waste.
Protestors dump Lantau waste at Govt House, warn of further action
Demonstrators dumped construction waste outside Carrie Lam’s residence today to protest landfilling and wetland destruction, with Legco member Eddie Chu warning of further protests “if the government ignores us.”
The rally of about 30 people marched from Central ferry pier, bringing with them two trolleys filled with waste from South Lantau landfill sites.
They poured the trash onto the ground at the Government House gate to remind Lam that conserving South Lantau and protecting the wetlands are her own policies.
A police sergeant accepted a petition on behalf of Lam.
A police contingent almost as large as the protest itself watched over the event.
Eddie Chu told the demonstrators:
“We will come back if the government does not take the right actions to deal with this dumping issue.
“This is only the first action. There will be actions following if the government ignores us.
“We will not allow this to happen in South Lantau. We are not going to allow it to happen anywhere in rural Hong Kong.”
Paul Zimmerman, head of Designing Hong Kong and a candidate for the architectural constitutency at the forthcoming by-election, said the government needed to introduce new legislation to protect rural Hong Kong.
“If you want development in Hong Kong you have to give confidence to people that conservation truly is conservation,” he said.
He said landfilling of the kind carried out in rural Hong Kong was “destruction on purpose, to create development value,” to ensure land was already destroyed so it could be rezoned.
But the symbolic waste dumping may come at a cost to the protestors. Organiser Eddie Tse, head of the Save Lantau Allianced said police had warned him he could be fined for dumping the waste.
Ombudsman castigates EPD over passive response to fly-tipping
The Ombudsman has castigated the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) for being too slow and reactive in dealing with fly-tipping.
It has called on the department to increase inspections and take “stronger actions” against fly-tipping in rural Hong Kong.
The Ombudsman’s report on fly-tipping, issued today, did not refer specifically to Pui O, where EPD has been passive in the face of multiple incidents of fly-tipping and landfilling.
But its findings validate many of the concerns of frustrated local residents and activists.
Some filed a complaint to the Ombudsman last month after the EPD failed to take action even though it had video evidence of landfilling without permission.
The report notes that although the Environment Bureau had instructed agencies to conduct regular inspections of fly-tipping blackspots, the EPD had carried out just two in 2017.
Though being one of the major enforcement authorities, EPD has yet to work out an action plan for such proactive inspections. EPD usually acts only on reports from the public, referrals from other departments or media reports.
The Ombudsman also noted that over a 22-month period the EPD had launched just 18 prosecutions – less than one a month.
Over 90% of EPD inspections take place during office hours, drawing complaints from members of the public because it meant fly-tippers could easily evade inspections.
EPD should have conducted more comprehensive inspections so that there would be no loopholes for offenders to evade its enforcement action.
The Ombudsman also admonished the department for the lack of progress in implementing GPS, “despite years of study.”
A trial of mandatory use of GPS in construction vehicles began in 2015 but the system still has not put it into practice.
As GPS is already a well-developed and popular technology, and the government has already spent years studying [it], … we consider that EPD, as the department enforcing [the Waste Disposal Ordinance] should make more efforts to push forward with the aforesaid legislative amendments.
It called on the EPD to expedite the introduction of the system.
The Ombudsman said EPD officials should step up inspections and enforcements outside office hours and draw up “proactive inspection plans for stronger actions against fly-tipping activities.”
The report also criticised the Planning Department for taking too long to enforce ‘Reinstatement Notices’, requiring landowners to return sites to their previous state, and said its prosecutions had little deterrent effectd.
Between 2006 and 2017, landowners had complied with the RNs in just 8% of cases.
Five Lantau beaches added to priority cleanup list
Five more South Lantau beaches to the government’s priority foreshore cleaning roster.
From now on Cheung Sha, Tong Fuk, Shap Long, Ham Tin and Tai Long Wan are among 29 beaches that will be serviced by Marine Department cleaners.
Pui O, Fan Lau and Tai O on Lantau’s south and western coast, and Sam Pak Wan and Nim Shue Wan near Discovery Bay, were already on the list.
The Environmental Protection Department updated the list of coastal sites based on “factors including cleanliness, the amount of refuse collected, cleaning frequency, geographical and hydrodynamic conditions, public accessibility, ecological value and concerns raised by the public,” a government statement said.
A dozen beaches were dropped list because of “sustained improvements in their cleanliness,” the statement said.
South Lantau residents organised multiple beach cleanup operations last year after two typhoons and a palm oil spill.
Cleanup operations on the priority beaches have increased 50% since the list was created two years ago, the government says.
It says Hong Kong is now working with 13 cities in the Pearl River catchment to monitor real-time rainfall data to help predict which beaches might be hit with heavy volumes of marine rubbish.
A notification system has been activated seven times.
The Marine Department’s contractor has been operating 80 scavenging vessels to clean up floating refuse in Hong Kong waters since October.
The contractor’s fleet includes six new quick response workboats and two scavenging catamarans equipped with mechanical devices to increase the efficiency of clean-up operation in narrow water channels and to enhance scavenging service in offshore waters. In addition, the number of foreshore cleaning teams has been increased from two to three in order to step up efforts in cleaning up the foreshore areas.
Hannah’s journey to no-wasteland
Hannah Chung won’t leave home without her stainless steel lunch box.
It’s the indispensable tool in her quest to live a life that creates no consumer waste.
But is that even possible in a city where strawberries come individually wrapped?
“I’m not there yet,” she admits, eight months into her zero-waste challenge. Speaking at the Lantau Health & Wellness Expo on the weekend she says it’s been “pretty difficult.”
It began with an epiphany in a supermarket late one evening. Everything was wrapped in plastic. She went home and looked in her bathroom cabinet, full of product in plastic containers.
“Outside there were styrofoam boxes everywhere. All of this just added up, I felt I needed to make a change. Once you have it in your mind you can’t unsee it.”
She found some inspiration from advice from online resources, including Zero Waste Home by Californian-based Bea Johnson and Trash is for Tossers by New Yorker Lauren Singer.
“I wanted to see if it could be done in Hong Kong, where convenience is prized.”
It’s certainly taken her out of her comfort zone. She’s worked with groups like the Zero Waste Alliance of Restaurants, which works on cutting restaurant waste, and charity Impact HK, which makes sleeping mats for homeless Hong Kongers out of plastic bags.
She has met with a lot of Hong Kong’s recycling community and has learnt to deal with the different types of plastic.
PET bottles can’t be cleaned properly and shouldn’t be reused but can be recycled, she explains. Takeaway food tubs can be recycled but only if they’re clean. “If they’re contaminated with food and oil they may end up in landfill.” Polystyrene – also known by its trade name styrofoam – can’t be recycled at all.
At home, she’s donated and swapped a lot of clothes, made stock from food scraps and soaked citrus peel in vinegar to create a cleaning agent. She’s made her own toothpaste from coconut and baking soda and bought locally-made toothbrushes. For feminine hygiene she’s discovered the lunette cup.
The hardest thing is the preparation. It takes a lot of time. But the stainless steel box is a great aid – it means she can buy food even from McDonald’s and not generate waste.
It’s been a steep learning curve. “At the end of the year I will review it, and see what I will keep.”
Truck owner fined $6000 over Pui O waste dumping
In yet another failed attempt to protect Hong Kong’s environmental assets, a truck owner has been fined just HK$6000 over the dumping of waste in Pui O.
The owner, who has not been identified, was convicted over not revealing the name of the driver.
Under the Waste Disposal Ordinance, the offence of not providing information without reasonable cause carries a penalty of up to HK$100,000 – 15 times the fine levied by the Eastern Magistrates Court on Monday. Continue reading
CY Leung under fire over Lantau cleanup
Hong Kong leader CY Leung is under fire from multiple directions for his beach cleanup exercise on South Lantau yesterday.
A team of around 60 government cleaning contractors was hired early Sunday morning to collect and sort the trash at Shui Hau ahead of the arrival of Leung and his 70-strong party of senior bureaucrats, according to local activist Ho Loy. Continue reading
CY Leung burnishes green credentials with Lantau beach clean-up
For the second time in less than a month, senior SAR officials have converged on Lantau to collect beach trash.
This morning CY Leung himself led a team of 70 officials that collected 1.35 tonnes of rubbish from Cheung Sha and Shui Hau, RTHK reported. Leung said they had been inspired by the efforts of local residents.