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A Hong Kong newsmaker is chosen each month by HKFP. Click here to view previous nominees. Green activist Celia Fung Sze-lai is selected as our Person of the Month for January 2017.

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Though Fung is our Person of the Month, this month’s award honours all Hongkongers who take part in the citywide movement to recover garbage.

In 2014, Fung co-founded a citizen-led group to promote recycling and waste reduction. Her group is well known for organising cleanup activities after public events such as rallies and music festivals, and whenever someone is found to have dumped large quantities of recyclable materials.

Last month, Fung’s group led a cleanup of the city’s largest Lunar New Year fair – in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay – for the third year. Every year, many stall operators leave behind large amounts of garbage, unsold merchandise and food. Many choose to throw away unsold goods and recyclable materials rather than take them back in order to save on transport costs.

Fung criticised the sellers: “Don’t you feel guilty for lacking a sense of civic responsibility?”

Fung and her colleagues are also unafraid of speaking up against pro-democracy groups. In an interview with a bike magazine, Fung said her group was criticised in 2014 for being a drag on Hong Kong’s democracy movement after they called out the now-defunct student group Scholarism for using more than 2,000 glow sticks in a publicity stunt.

In 2015, they urged the organisers of the pro-democracy July 1 march to make recycling and bringing one’s own water bottles a policy, but they told HKFP at the time that they had received no response from the organisers.

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Garbage collected at the July 1 rally in 2015. File Photo: Stewart CC, via 結束一桶專棄 Facebook.

But in recent years, public awareness of recycling and waste reduction has grown thanks to the effort of green activists such as Fung. Last December, a video of Fung hitting out against mountain trail litter bugs went viral on social media, with online commenters voicing support for her dedication to the city’s environmental movement.

Fung previously worked at Friends of the Earth as an environmental affairs officer. During her time at the NGO, she worked on a study related to food waste by the city’s supermarket giants and helped push the commercial sector to participate in food donation programmes.

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Celia Fung (R). File Photo: Friends of the Earth.

According to the Environmental Protection Department, about 3.33 million tonnes of municipal waste was disposed of in 2010 and Hong Kong’s landfills are estimated to become exhausted between the mid to late 2010s. The government has since recognised a pressing need to reduce waste and rein in the use of landfills.

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Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.