Listen to #Hashtag Hong Kong every Sunday morning at 8.15
Focussing on issues affecting civil society, we'll hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies, and non-profit groups.
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
I am Leanne Tam from Greenpeace East Asia.
Every day, Hong Kong people rush through work, afraid of losing to others only one tiny step behind. Takeaway coffee for breakfast and fast food takeaways to fight for more time to work? Without realizing it, this lifestyle eats us up. If you ever take a step back, you'll notice our environment is filled with rubbish. In 2021,The average daily quantity of solid waste disposed of at landfills was over 11,000 tonnes, a 18 percent increase compared to 10 years ago. The daily per capita was 1.53kg in 2021. It is definitely a number 1 compared to other East Asia well developed cities, like Taipei, Tokyo, and Seoul, where their per capita waste disposal rate is around or less than 1kg.
Taipei, Tokyo and Seoul all had implemented a waste charging scheme in their city years ago. While for Hong Kong, the municipal solid waste charging had been “discussed” for 17 years, the policy will finally be in place on 1st April next year.
The year 2024 is a critical year in making substantial progress in addressing the waste crisis in the city. Other than waste charging, the first phase on the regulation of disposable plastic tableware will also be executed in April 2024. There will be a full ban on foam food containers and cutlery, no more disposable plastic tableware allowed for dine-in restaurants and no more plastic-straw, cutlery for takeaway.
While waste charging and regulation on plastic tableware would probably be two crucial policies driving forces on waste reduction. But back to the basics, paying money while continuously throwing away disposable items doesn't mean solving the waste problem. Waste that ends up in landfills, burned in the air, or leaks into the natural environment still generates harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses and environmental pollution. Most importantly, pollution does not happen when you throw, but it begins at the production stage of the single-use items. From oil extraction to plastic manufacturing and packaging, they have already consumed various environmental resources and caused pollution. Reducing waste at source is the root cause solution that truly tackles the waste problem.
Take a look at policies in other countries and regions, using regulation and incentive promoting REUSE to completely phase out single-use items is paramount important. To avoid the issue of simply shifting from plastic to paper, bamboo, or other single-use materials without effectively addressing the waste problem.
Greenpeace believes phasing out the unnecessary packaging is the key. For primary packaging, we can make good use of technology and product design to establish a circular packaging system. This can be achieved by implementing a reusable and returnable packaging to phase out the linear single-use packaging system. To demonstrate the possibility and feasibility of the reuse system, Greenpeace launched the Borrow and Return Cup Program in 2022, enabling customers to borrow reuse cups from over 35 cafes. Reuse cup is introduced to the Hong Kong community through a mobile app. Customers can order takeaway coffee in a reuse cup, and return the cup to any partnering cafe within the network. The program so far saved over 8,000 disposable cups, with a return rate of 99%. Not only receiving positive feedback from the F & B sector and customers, also demonstrating that environmental-friendly and convenience are not mutually exclusive.
To further reveal the environmental potential of reuse systems through scientific research, Greenpeace conducted a Life-cycle assessment of single-use and reuse cup systems. The assessment aimed to calculate the environmental impact generated throughout the entire life cycle of these cups, from production, transportation, use to final disposal.
The study found that the production stage of disposable cup systems accounts for the lion's share of emissions. Even using recycled plastic as raw material input for disposable plastic cups cannot change the significantly large amounts of natural resources consumed and the array of adverse emissions caused during the production process.
This study proved that reuse cups are more resource-efficient and cause less pollution, compared to paper cups and recycled plastic cups. Greenpeace invites chain restaurants in Hong Kong to implement reuse systems, to shoulder corporate responsibility and proactively address the second phase of disposable plastic tableware regulations. The government should also relocate more resources on reuse rather than solely relying on recycling as the ultimate solution to the waste issue. Let’s join hands and unlock the environmental potential of reuse systems, working together to make our city greener for a sustainable future.
Now I’d like to dedicate this song Fix you by Coldplay to all of you.
“File does not exist” …….
“This file is corrupted and cannot be opened” …….
These may be common problems in our daily computer use.
Then how about the brains of people with dementia? Memory and the files in their brain are always broken and difficult to recall.
Dementia is a degenerative disease of the brain. The deterioration usually starts very slowly, being forgetful at first. Eventually, it can develop into obvious memory loss, inability to self-care, being lost, not recognising loved ones and forgetting important moments in life.
“Who are you?”, “Where am I?” are heartbreaking questions but repeated by people with dementia at every moment. Please remember, Dementia is not normal ageing, but a disease that causes memories to fade from the recent to distant past.
In Hong Kong, about 10% of people over the age of 65 live with dementia, and over the age of 85 is as high as one-third. We all know that Hong Kong is facing an ageing population and the prevalence of dementia will sharply increase. There are currently about hundred and fifty thousand people living with dementia in Hong Kong. The number will double in the next 15 years. However, is Hong Kong ready for the silver tsunami?
The development of a comprehensive plan for dementia care by our policymakers would be the crucial way out for our future. Countries or cities around us, such as China, Macau, Singapore, and Japan, have already developed national plans to prepare society for the challenges. But we are still in its infancy.
“Never too Early, Never too Late” is the theme of World Alzheimer’s Month this year. We aim to arouse everyone’s importance on risk reduction in delaying and potentially preventing the onset of dementia. I think policy planning should also be “never too early, never too late”, We need to take action before family caregivers, and our health and social care systems collapse.
Different interventions are effective in dementia management. It is imperative to grasp the golden opportunity in the earliest stage. Unfortunately, the diagnostic rate of dementia has remained at only 10% for the past few decades. That means the majority of the people living with dementia are still without proper interventions and support.
Memory problems in the early stage can easily be mistaken as signs of normal ageing. Neither the people with dementia nor their families and friends realize it until more obvious problems happen in their daily lives. Moreover, family size in Hong Kong is getting smaller and there are more and more childless couples, early symptoms may go unnoticed if people do not interact closely in day-to-day life.
Public education to increase awareness of early signs of dementia, easily accessible diagnostic services, and shorten waiting time, all of these should be put into action.
Dementia is referred to as the “long goodbye”, our beloved seems to be becoming a stranger slowly. In my 20 years of walking with families, I know too well how frustrating it can be when a loved one has dementia. But I keep encouraging the families to appreciate what our beloved can still do and remember, and try to keep them for as long as possible. We may worry about the next deterioration coming, but while waiting for the future, what deserves more attention is the current him/her.
If you or your beloved are living with dementia, don’t give up. Drugs can help. Different brain-stimulating activities and caring techniques can ease the symptoms or slow down the deterioration. Equipment and technology can help to make life easier. We are here to walk through it with you. You are not alone, just let us know.
If you are healthy, congratulations, but remember “Never too early, Never too late”, take actions to reduce the risk factors of dementia. A healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, healthy and balanced diet, stay mentally and socially active. All these can help. Please remember to use and keep your brain active or you will lose it.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, an international campaign initiated by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) to raise awareness and remove the stigma of dementia. As the sole member of ADI in Hong Kong, we invite you to join us in caring about the brain health of your families, neighbours and friends, supporting those living with dementia around you and seeing if we can help.
Finally, I’d like to dedicate the song “I'm Not Gonna Miss You” by Glen Campbell to all people with dementia and their caregivers. The disease may take the memory, but not of the love you share and cherish.