How to reduce consumption of plastic bags

Korea plans to ban plastic bags in supermarkets and malls this year to further tighten its crackdown on plastic waste. At present, Korea has in effect a plastic bag levy scheme making it compulsory for retail shops to charge extra fee for plastic bags. The new plan is about to further reduce the use of plastic bags, obliging the 11,000 supermarkets and 2,000 shopping malls to provide instead recycled paper bags, cardboard boxes or reusable bags.

The plan is a stricter enforcement against the use of plastic bags, which eliminates the use of plastic bags at one of the major consumption sources. Hong Kong imposed the first phase of an environmental levy on plastic shopping bags in 2009, which came into full force in 2015 to extend to more than 100,000 retail points. Though the levy yielded a significant decrease in the landfill disposal of plastic bags from the retail industry in the initial phase, consumption of the bags rebounded in 2016 at more than 9%. A more stringent approach may be needed to cut down on the usage.

Imposing a ban in the retail industry can be one effective measure. Hong Kong may learn from Korea in the fight against the consumption of plastic bags. Countries or regions such as Australia, China, Kenya, Chile, Karnataka in India, etc also ban the use of plastic bags. While it is vital for the government to take the lead in reducing plastic bag consumption, citizens’ environmental awareness to cut down on the usage is just as critical. Citizens can reduce plastic bag usage according to the 4R principles, namely reduce, reuse, recycle and replace.

In order to reduce the usage, we should only use plastic bags when necessary. Replacing plastic bags with reusable ones is an effective way. To make the most out of used plastic bags, we should reuse used ones. For example, we can clean the used plastic bags and save them in a tissue box to be easily dispensed for reuse. Making creative use of the plastic bags is also a good idea, such as crafting artistic decorations, recycled bags, umbrella wraps etc. We should avoid throwing plastic bags away by recycling the bags at the “brown” recyclables collection bins. By minimising the consumption of plastic bags and maximising the use, we can help build a greener city.


如何減少使用膠袋

南韓計劃今年內禁止超級市場和商場提供塑膠袋,現時韓國實行塑膠購物袋徵費,新政將進一步打擊塑膠廢物污染。韓國1.1萬間超市和2000個商場在新政下只能提供紙袋、紙箱或可重用膠袋代替膠袋。

南韓的膠袋新政嚴厲打繫塑膠袋,從消耗源頭減少使用膠袋。香港於2009年推行塑膠購物袋環保徵費計劃首階段,並在2015年全面實施,涵蓋逾100,000零售點。徵費計劃雖在首階段大量減少來自零售業的堆填區膠袋棄置量,但數字在2016年回升逾9%,若要改善情況,需更嚴厲的做法。

香港可學效南韓,禁止零售業提供膠袋。事實上許多國家或地區亦已實施無膠袋的做法,如澳洲、中國、肯雅、智利、印度的卡納塔克邦等等。雖然減少膠袋使用由政府帶頭至關重要,但市民有環保意識主動少用膠袋亦必不可少。市民可參考4R原則來減廢,即減少(Reduce)、重用(Reuse)、循環再用(Recycle)和替代(Replace)。

為了減少使用,我們應在必要時才使用,儘量以可重復使用的購物袋代替膠袋。如非必要用膠袋的話,膠袋使用後亦要物盡其用,例如,清潔後可用空紙巾盒放好方便下次使用。或創意利用膠袋,製作成藝術裝飾、環保袋或雨傘袋等,亦不失為廢物利用的好方法。如果要棄置膠袋,我們應該避免直接丟棄,而應把膠袋棄置到「啡膠樽」回收桶,讓膠袋得以循環再用。綠色城市需要市民的努力,以減少使用和物盡其用來減廢。

Hong Kong Disneyland — The Past and the Present

Every time the flight takes off from or is about to land Hong Kong, I take a look at the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge to see how the construction progress goes so far and look forward to the bridge’s opening.

In the old day long before the construction of the bridge began, I used to do the same checking out places on the plane nearing or leaving Hong Kong. But back then l was always looking at the place about to be reclaimed to build the Hong Kong Disneyland, when there was no Mickey Mouse but power plants and shipyards. It was in the Penny’s Bay. I was heavily involved in the development of Phase 1 Disneyland, so we used to take regular boat trips to the site to explore decontamination for the development. People there always finished work on time because the last boat to the city was 5pm. Perhaps out of the special feelings I had for the place, I would check out that place on plane and now, there was the Disneyland.

This Saturday I went on a site visit to the Disneyland to explore the Phase 2 development. It was such a sunny day and things seemed to be the same old same old: Disney characters, Mickey Mouse shaped windows on the Disneyland Train, themed streets and houses, etc. But I am a grownup now.

When I was kid my dream was to visit all Disneylands in the world. I already went to the ones in California, Florida, Tokyo, Paris and this one in Hong Kong. I hope to see the one in Shanghai soon.


香港迪士尼樂園今昔

每次乘搭飛機在香港機場降落或離港,我都會看向港珠澳大橋看看興建進度,期待大橋啟用的一天。

在開建港珠澳大橋以前,每次乘搭飛機挨近或離開香港我也習慣看向窗外,只是當時看向竹篙灣即將填海來建迪士尼樂園的地方,那時還未有米奇老鼠,只有船廠和發電廠。因為我們參與迪士尼樂園第一期的環境顧問工作,所以要定期搭船去考察即將填海的地方,研究填海相關的除污工作。當時人們總是準時下班,因為最後一班回市區的船五點就開。也許因為對這個地方有特殊的情感,當時總喜歡搭飛機時看向這個地方,而現在就是迪士尼樂園了。

這個星期六我去了迪士尼樂園,為第二期發展進行考察。是日陽光普照,迪士尼看來和往常一般,有迪士尼的卡通人物、米奇老鼠圖案的火車、主題大街和建築等等。以前來玩,現在卻是來工作了。

我小的時候夢想是遊覽全世界的迪士尼樂園,已經到過加州、佛羅里達州、東京、巴黎和香港的迪士尼,只欠上海的迪士尼,不知何時能到上海完成兒時的願望。

 

Research reveals 1 in 4 of the Hong Kong workforce will lose jobs to artificial intelligence within 20 years

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic throughout the world over recent years. There have been lots of studies and discussions over how AI can substitute human workforce in so many positions and domains. Three days ago the One Country Two Systems Research Institute published a study on the impacts AI will cause to the Hong Kong market and workforce in the near future.

The study was conducted by Dr. Paul Duckworth with machine learning, which revealed that in the next 10 to 20 years, around 1 million population in Hong Kong will be threatened by 70% chances of being replaced by AI technologies. The affected population will constitute more than one fourth of the total workforce. The study further mentions policies such as universal basic income, robot tax, capital ownership over machines, etc. in better safeguarding the people in employment against AI. However Hong Kong has not developed any comprehensive development strategy concerning AI.

It is noteworthy that the study points out 3 weaknesses of the Hong Kong market against AI to invite more discussions. First, the 4 pillar industries in Hong Kong, namely finance, tourism, trade and logistics, and professional services, while making jobs for almost half of the workforce, are threatened by a rather high risk of being replaced by AI. Second, education on science and mathematics is rather weak, unable to nurture AI talents of the future. Third, workforce engaged in continuous education is low, making them susceptible to risks imposed by advanced technologies.

AI advancement and adoption are inevitable. Hong Kong has stepped up efforts in developing the innovation sector over recent years. For example, the 2018-19 Hong Kong Budget reserves 10 billion HKD alongside a series of initiatives to bolster innovation technology in Hong Kong. There are also supportive incubators for technology startups, such as Science Park and Cyberport that supply funding and help.

However, while help to IT companies has been strengthened, it should be just as vital to prepare citizens for the AI era. It is critical for citizens to understand what AI is capable of, and how AI can be of use to their life and jobs, in order to embrace AI in different domains instead of fearing it. STEM education, namely the curriculum on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, has already been proactively launched across Hong Kong primary and secondary schools to cultivate technology interests and talents in young generations. But it is more difficult for adults to adapt to innovation, so more courses on AI and related areas should be provided to citizens with financial assistance to help them get adapted to AI adoption. A positive and healthy mindset toward AI encourages better transits on the part of citizens, and also allows for a culture conducive to creation and innovation with AI.


人工智能將在未來十至二十年取代香港近一百萬人的工作

近年人工智能(Artificial Intelligence)造成熱議,有關人工智能的研究和討論除了關注其應用外,更多圍繞技術如何在多個工種和範疇取代人類,造成大量失業。兩天前一國兩制研究中心發表一份「人工智能對香港就業市場的衝擊及如何迎接人工智能時代」的研究報告,分析人工智能在未來十至二十年對香港市場勞動力的影響。

研究由保羅·德沃夫博士(Dr. Paul Duckworth)以機械學習(Machine Learning)方式進行,結果顯示在未來十至二十年,香港約一百萬人在工作上面對70%的機會被人工智能取代,被影響人口多於整體勞動人口的四分一。研究亦提及數項保障市民的措施,如全民基本收入、機械人稅、機械資本所有權等等。然而香港現時尚未有任何全面的與人工智能相關的發展策略。

研究報告特別指出現時香港就業市場在面對人工智能的挑戰時存在着三大弱點,期望引起關注及更多討論。第一,香港的四大產業,金融、旅遊、貿易物流和專業服務,雖然為差不多近一半勞動人口帶來就業職位,但卻面臨較高的風險被人工智能取代。第二,科技和數理的教育偏弱,不能為香港未來培育優秀的創研人才。第三,投入可持續發展的人口偏低,其承受高科技衝擊的能力較弱。

人工智能的發展和應用是不能避免的,所以香港近年大力發展創新科技產業,例如二零一八至一九年度的財政預算案就預留了一百億港元外加一系列措施來重點發展本港的創新科技。除此,香港有多個創科培育中心,如科學園和數碼港等,為創新科技初創提供資金和幫助。

在創科公司得到加強的同時,市民亦不應被怱略,讓大眾為人工智能時代做好準備十分重要。具體而言,應讓市民明白人工智能的好處,了解人工智能在生活和工作上能如何得到應用,讓其在不同方面能接納人工智能,而不是一面倒的恐懼或擔憂。近年政府推廣STEM教育,培養中小學生在科學(Science)、技術(Technology)、工程(Engineering)及數學(Mathematics)上的興趣和才能,積極培育下一代的科研潛能,但成年人面對創科發展更難以適從,政府有必要向大眾提供協助,如為市民提供更多人工智能或相關領域的課桯及資金幫助,鼓勵市民接觸和認識,發展正面和健康的心態,不但能幫助其迎接人工智能時代,亦對發展科研文化和氣候有積極作用。

 

Reverse vending machines may reverse decline in local recycling industry

Have you wondered where the recyclables collected by recycling bins will go? Are they really recycled at the end of the day? In Hong Kong there are 2800 recycling bins and they collect 4 tonnes of disposals every day, out of which 1.5 tonnes are non-recyclables that’ll end up in landfills. But the 2.5 tonnes of recyclables may just share the same destiny as the local recycling industry is facing a serious decline.

In the past the collected recyclables were exported, especially to mainland China. For example in 2011, 98.5% of collected waste was exported to the mainland. However over the past years, the mainland has been tightening their waste import regulations. The prices of waste exported from Hong Kong have been dropping, causing a serious blow to the recycling industry. This year China further imposed a regulation banning the import of 24 types of solid waste, making it harder for local recyclers to survive.

The problem with the local recycling industry is that it is too dependent on waste export markets and that the recycling culture in Hong Kong is not mature enough. To improve local recycling, in 2007 some local catering enterprises launched a batch of reverse vending machines (RVMs) to facilitate recycling. RVMs are vending machines that collect used plastic bottles or other recyclables, and reward users with coupons. This encourages recycling and more importantly, it automatically processes and sorts recyclables. Countries like Norway, Finland, Germany, America, China, etc are adopting RVMs to their benefits. However unlike these places, the practice didn’t work well in Hong Kong because of its voluntary nature, insufficient reward initiatives and a lack of promotion.

If recycling with RVMs is encouraged or even made mandatory by the government, RVMs will work as well in Hong Kong as in other cities. This year a mandatory producer responsibility scheme on glass beverage containers will go into effect, which will enforce the “polluter pays” principle in treating and recycling glass beverage containers. The scheme can in fact be implemented on other recyclables like plastics, cans and so on to share the responsibility of recycling among producers, retailers, consumers, etc. RVMs can complement the scheme to ensure the quality of recyclables. This can help establish a self-sufficient local recycling eco-system and develop Hong Kong into a green smart city.


逆向自動售貨機能逆轉香港回收業困境? 

全港有2800個分類回收桶,平均每天收集4噸回收廢棄物,但當中有1.5噸是不可被回收的,要被送到堆填區,然而另外2.5噸回收物料可能亦難逃棄置堆填區的命運,因為本地的回收業正面對嚴峻的回收市場,收回的回收物料可能前無去路。

以往香港的回收物料會出口到外地,尤以中國內地市場為主,在2011年,本港出口到內地的回收物料就高達98.5%。然而,近年內地提高入口物料要求,各類回收物料價格驟跌,對本地回收業造成嚴重打擊。今年內地更進一步禁止二十四種洋垃圾進口,讓本地回收商更難經營。

從回收商面臨的困境可見,最大的問題在於香港回收業過份依賴內地市場,加上本港回收風氣亦不盛行。為了改善回收風氣,2007年幾所大型餐飲企業推出了一批逆向自動售貨機,以積分制鼓勵市民回收飲品膠樽。逆向自動售貨機 Reverse Vending Machines(RVMs),又稱智能回收機,能自動收集、分類膠樽及其他回收物品,市民投入膠樽後,售貨機會回贈現金、積分或禮品劵等。RVMs現時有多個國家採用,如挪威、芬蘭、德國、美國、中國等等,成效顯著。然而RVMs在香港卻不像在這些國家般成功,2007年的回收計劃就因自願性質、缺乏宣傳、獎勵不夠吸引等原因成效不大。

現時政府正擬議塑膠產品容器生產者責任計劃,強制性讓污染者負擔處理及回收廢棄物的責任,相信屆時RVMs能成為有效的輔助工具,不但方便市民回收廢棄物,同時提高物料的質素,幫助回收業建立一個自給自足的生態環境。