The climate is definitely changing – the Hong Kong Observatory issued its first ever amber rainstorm warning in January. If you are bringing an umbrella with some dripping water indoors – what would you do? In the 1980s, most restaurants had an umbrella rack with individual locks placed near the entrance. As a child, I always wanted to try it out, but my parents always said no. They said it is completely fine to bring your umbrella with you, because even back then the restaurants knew to lay a non-slip PVC mat onto the floor. Decades later, all those big umbrella racks have given way to the so-called umbrella bag dispensers. Google this machine and you’ll find this advertisement “no electricity needed, easy to use, it only takes 2 seconds to bag an umbrella, each refill contains 1000 umbrella bags.” Not only restaurants, but most office buildings and shopping malls now put out these “umbrella bags dispensers” at their entrances on rainy days, giving plastic umbrella bags to everyone who happens to walk past. Recently, I was walking in The Centre on a rainy day. Although the lobby was already covered with a non-slip PVC mat, the property management staff were standing anxiously next to an umbrella bag machine. One of them signalled to me I should go get an umbrella bag. In response to their unnecessary “concern” and “generosity”, I waved them off and continued walking.
“Generosity” is in quotations because I’d like to ask: out of whose generosity? Theoretically speaking, these plastic bags can be re-used, practically speaking they are disposable. We can see that on any given rainy day, the rubbish bins on the streets in town are overflowing with these umbrella plastic bags. At most having been used for one single day, these bags will then be thrown into landfill and it will take hundreds of years for them to disintegrate. Who will suffer when the landfills are full and need to be expanded? Those of us who are happy to take a free plastic umbrella bags.
While writing this article, my friend Amy whatsapp’ed this photo to me. Amy and her family were walking past this rubbish bin. Her 7-year old daughter On Yi saw this and asked her parents to take this photo to send me. On Yi also sent me this voice massage, which is translated as follow “hello Auntie Rachel, I am On Yi. I think those umbrella plastic bags are not too environmental friendly. Because those bags are made of oil…it takes a long time to breakdown. What’s more, many people lack public morals (referring people throwing the used bags on the floor). Janitors need to sweep them up…or else others would step on them and slip and fall.”
I hope we can all learn from On Yi and stop using these bags.