Go green on red packets

A green campaign is calling for less paper wastage as red packets are to swamp the city during the Chinese New Year.

“Hong Kongers use around 320 million red packets on average each year,” said Man Yip, assistant project manager of Greener Action, a local group that organizes the annual recycling campaign.

The campaign that aims to collect and recycle red packets enters its ninth year. Last year the group collected 12 million red packets and 8.8 million the year before. Encouraged by this increasing number, the group expects to collect more red envelopes this Chinese New Year.

Greener Action has also been urging businesses to show their support for the campaign, this year they have corporations such as Bank of China, Link Reit and Shell on their side.

The recycled red packets collected from last year were distributed at the start of this month at more than 300 locations all over in Hong Kong, including shopping centres under Link Reit, branches of The Hong Kong Jockey Club and the post offices, according to the group’s website.

Reusing red packets is not always easy. Out of all the envelopes collected last year, 5.5 million, almost half, could not be reused. “Those inscribed with auspicious symbols of the zodiac year or even surnames are not reusable. And those require glue for sealing are not good for reuse either,” Yip said.

Over the years, the group has raised their concern of excessive printing of new red packets to the government and statutory organizations such as the district councils, The Housing Authority, The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and The Leisure and Cultural Services Department but received mixed responses.

“If we cannot get them to print fewer red packets, at least we can advise them to think twice on the design – avoid symbols of the zodiac year and the year to make them reusable,” Yip said.

Local reports have bashed the district councils for excessive printing of new red packets, citing that fifteen out of eighteen councils have printed over 10 million envelopes in total this year. In particular, Yau Tsim Mong District Council is said to have printed over 2 million red packets, almost a double of last year.

It has long been a common practice for businesses and groups to print and give away new red packets every year. For example, the banks in Hong Kong not only provide crisp new banknotes, but also new red packets to their clients when Chinese New Year draws close. The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions prints between 150,000 and 200,000 envelopes every year, with some spare ones always left unused.

The obsession with new things for the new year comes with a deep-rooted tradition. Yip admitted that the group often has to explain to the older generations why they should use recycled red packets in order to persuade them to do so.

But as mobile payment becomes the talk of town these days, Yip sees its potential to become an alternative to these packets. “I believe this is a good trend. You can still send money as well as your blessings via texts,” she said.

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