This year, the World Green Organisation [WGO] collaborated with Joint Chamber International Lion Rock (JCI Lion Rock) to conduct a “2017 Urban Attitudes towards the usage of Paper Towels” survey. The results showed that less than 10% of respondents minded if restaurants, shopping malls and hotel washrooms did not provide paper towels for environmental reasons. Out of the companies who participated in the ‘Wipe Out Paper Towels Charter’, some had the potential of cutting down their paper towel usage by 70%. This is an opportunity for businesses and the public to collaborate in cutting down on the use of paper towels.
WGO and JCI Lion Rock’s survey “Urban Attitudes towards Paper towel Usage” from May of 2016 found that the current situation is extremely dire. In a single day, Hong Kong discards paper towels the weight equivalent of approximately 40 double-decker buses. The two groups followed up on the situation in the wake of public outrage. Another study to determine the washroom habits of people found that 60% of companies surveyed were concerned about the improper usage of paper towels. At the end of the charter, 80 shopping malls, commercial and industrial buildings, offices, and residential clubhouses were willing to reduce paper towel usage by 10% or more.
To recognize the achievements over the past year, a ceremony was held for organisations that committed to support the reduction of paper towels. Ms Vicki Kwok Wong Wing-ki, deputy director of the Environmental Protection Department, was invited to attend a ceremony at Sham Shui Po’s Dragon Center. She talked to representatives from different fields, shared about past experiences and activities, and gave suggestions for sustainability such as holding monthly strategic meetings.
To gain a deeper understanding of the situation in Hong Kong, JCI Lion Rock conducted a paper towel survey between the months of July and August with 545 people over the age of 18 online and face-to-face on the streets of Causeway Bay.
The survey found that 40% of respondents, compared to last year’s 37%, were aware that paper towels could not be recycled. This means that 60% of respondents, which is a 14% increase from the previous year, still thought that paper towels could be recycled. At the same time, 31% of respondents, 18% more than last year, believed that paper towels were not biodegradable, while only 69%, one percent more than last year, knew that they were biodegradable. The difference of results could be due to the increased number of people that were surveyed. Regardless, this survey reflected the urgent need of education regarding recycling.
aper towels cannot be recycled or used repeatedly due to hygiene reasons. However, this is not the only reason. The processing of paper towels include materials that help make them less likely to rip and tear. That substance makes the paper towels less degradable and may even give off methane, a greenhouse gas which is exacerbating global warming. In addition, the manufacture of paper towels are also not good for the planet. In order to create one ton of paper towels, 17 fully grown trees are needed and 20,000 gallons of water are polluted. At present, the usage of tens of thousands of paper towels is causing mass deforestation and water pollution.
Another survey looking into washroom hand drying habits was conducted at the end of last year. Out of the 80 company respondents, 60% were concerned about the usage of paper towels. In the “Urban Attitudes towards Paper towel Usage” survey, 90% of respondents said they would not complain if there was a lack of paper towels in shopping malls or public areas. Compared to similar surveys conducted in 2016, only 9%, compared to 19% the previous year, was opposed to the removal of paper towels for environmental purposes. This shows that the public is generally open to reducing usage of paper towels.
This year’s finding was encouraging compared to the study from last May. The daily consumption of paper towels was 44,397,432 this year which estimates to approximately 16,205,062,385 sheets per year. This equates to about 27,330 tons or 1,700 double decker buses in weight. Compared to 2016, consumption went down by 19%.
The daily consumption of paper towels per capita also decreased from 7.5 sheets to 6 sheets this year. 35% of respondents, as opposed to 25% in 2016, said that they would choose to dry their hands using their own napkins or with hand dryers in public restrooms. Those who said that they would dry their hands with paper towels also decreased 12% from 69% in 2016 to 57% this year.
WGO followed up with the 80 participating shopping malls, commercial and industrial buildings, offices and residential clubhouses that committed to reduce paper towel usage by 10% from January to June. Out of the 34 companies that responded, 60% achieved their target.
One every ten were able to reduce paper towel usage by 30%. Two companies even reduced usage by 70% and 50% respectively. The companies who were not able to reach their goal remained positive about reducing paper towel usage using various methods such as installing hand dryers.
In order to further increase the collaborative effort between businesses and the public, WGO and JCI Lion Rock also invited 300 restaurants to come together and join in the ‘Wipe Out Paper Towels Charter’ by pledging to place stickers at more than 1,000 locations that have high pedestrian traffic. This will serve as a reminder to the public that paper towels cannot be recycled and to think before using them. By changing the habits of the general public, WGO hopes to reduce paper towel usage.
Dr William Yu from WGO states
Although efforts have been made to combat this issue over the past few years, Hong Kong still uses staggering amounts of paper towels. According to a 2017 estimate, since producing one ton of paper towels requires 17 trees and pollutes 20,000 gallons of water, Hong Kong uses 464,600 trees and 54,600 gallons of water annually to create the paper towels used. This is a problem. We hope that everyone will be active in reducing the amount of paper towels used and live the slogan ‘Saving one sheet can help save the earth’. Reducing production and usage of paper towels can save yourself and the earth.
JCI Hong Kong said,
Although this campaign is voluntary, we are keen to promote public awareness of the necessity to stop using paper towels. By stopping paper towel usage, we will be able to stop 75 tonnes (the weight of 5 buses) of paper waste going to the landfill. We will be able to save 1,200 trees and one billion gallons of water. This is why we are announcing August 14th as a ‘No Paper Towels Awareness Day’ and urging shopping malls and various venues to stop distribution of paper towels on that day. We hope that everyone can participate in this event!
Established in 1971 as a member of the Junior Chamber International Hong Kong, JCI Lion Rock aims to nurture young people to develop leadership skills and social responsibility through a variety of trainings and work plans. In this process, participants help contribute to the community while improving the quality of their lives that are built with the right values. Website: http: //www.jcilionrock.org.hk/
The World Green Organisation (WGO) is an independent non-governmental organisation concerned with environmental conservation and environmentally related livelihood and economic affairs by proposing an integrated, three-pronged solution that combines social, environmental, and economic aspects, leading to an environmental revolution. Through science-based policy research and community projects, the WGO aims to enhance the quality of the environment, promote a greener economy, and improve people’s livelihoods. In particular, it will focus on the social concerns of underprivileged groups and on the creation of a green economy to help realise its vision of sustainable development. For more information, please visit http://www.thewgo.org/
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