580,000 trees cut each year for tissue paper used by HK people

May 09, 2016 15:37
Environmentalists say 17 trees will have to be cut down and 20,000 gallons of water contaminated in order to produce one ton of tissue paper. Photo: HKEJ, Baidu

Hong Kong people could be using 55 million pieces of tissue paper each day, or about eight pieces per person per day, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing the results of a recent survey.

That may indicate that we are very sanitary and hygienic, but the World Green Organization (WGO) also warns that we should not underestimate the pollution brought about by the manufacture and consumption of tissue paper.

Dr. William Yu, WGO founder and chief executive, said 17 trees will have to be cut down and 20,000 gallons of water contaminated in order to produce one ton of tissue paper.

Yu called on people to consider using hand-drying machines, handkerchiefs or hand towels instead.

According to Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong 2014, a report published by the Environmental Protection Department, tissue paper made up 7 percent of the 9,547 tons of daily solid waste produced in the city in 2013. That's the same volume of plastic bags used in the city.

The government has since introduced the plastic bag levy to minimize the pollution caused by the non-recyclable material, but nothing has been done to address the overuse of tissue paper.

The Junior Chamber International Lion Rock carried out a survey in March and April this year to gain a better understanding of Hong Kong people's habits on the use of tissue paper.

It interviewed 465 people aged 18 or above, and passed on the data to the WGO for analysis.

The respondents were found to have consumed 3,610 pieces of tissue paper on a daily basis, or 7.7 pieces per person a day.

If that consumption rate is applied to the entire city, which has a population of 7.18 million, it can be assumed that some 55 million pieces of tissue paper are used every day, and 580,000 trees have to be cut each year to produce that volume.

The survey also found that 69 percent of the respondents use tissue paper after using the toilet, while 19 percent use a hand-drying machine and only 5 percent use a handkerchief.

Of those who use tissue paper, 23 percent cite convenience as their biggest reason, while 33 percent believe it is more hygienic.

Yu pointed out that the hygiene level when using tissue paper is about the same when one uses a hand-drying machine.

He also stressed that tissue paper cannot be recycled for hygienic reasons and because of its relatively lower fiber content.

Mak Wing-hoi, founder of the green group 350HK, said our civilization will not be sustainable if we fail to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions efficiently.

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