A few months ago, I had a chat with Ms. Ann Kildahl of the HKU Sustainability Office about the water dispensers in the HKU campus.  Ann told me that based on the number of staff and students, there should be more water dispensers installed in HKU campus.  And thanks to her effort and that of other good folks at HKU…here they are!  Three new water dispensers have recently been installed at: G/F of James Hsioung Lee Science Building, LG of Chong Yuet Ming Physics Building and 3/F of TT Tsui Building.  There is a censor installed on each of these dispensers.  You stick your water bottle in, and water is dispensed automatically. There is also a counter showing how many disposable plastic bottles this machine has helped to reduce.  Although this water dispenser is newly installed, it has already reduced 1559 disposable plastic bottles from going into the landfill.

CUHK is also working hard towards plastic waste reduction.  I paid a visit to Mr. Jor Fan, Environmental Sustainability Manager of CUHK last summer.  Jor told me that the Estate Management Office of CUHK had notified all the drink vendors to remove 40% of their vending machines from the CUHK campus (excluding the colleges, which are separately managed).  This not only reduces plastic waste but also reduces electricity consumption. For the remaining vending machines, CUHK encouraged the vendors to reduce the sale of plastic bottled drinks.  At the same time, in order to encourage students to bring their own bottle, CUHK is posting up more water dispenser maps on the campus.  

While two of the top universities in Hong Kong are working hard to reduce plastic waste at source, the largest public transportation operator continues to allow its tenants to sell tonnes of plastic bottled drinks inside each and every MTR station. It continues to resist requests for installation of water dispensers inside MTR stations.  Recently, a friend of mine wrote to MTR to request installation of water dispensers inside MTR station.  He received the following reply “We would like to stress that at MTR, we always place passenger safety as our top priority. With regard to your suggestion of providing drinking fountains in MTR stations, we appeal for your understanding that there are large numbers of passengers using MTR services and walking around in the stations, therefore setting up drinking fountains in stations may cause hygiene issues and also misuse would cause the surrounding ground to be slippery and a potential danger to other passengers passing by. Therefore, for safety reasons, we currently have no plans to install drinking fountains in our stations.”

Lets examine if their reasoning is valid. The Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), since its opening back in 1998, has installed more than 50 water dispensers at various locations inside its terminals.  Recently, it has even installed water dispensers which provide hot drinking water.  Have you ever heard of any slip-and-fall case at the HKIA due to misuse of water dispensers?  As to the so-called “hygiene issue”, it is actually referring to a famous urban myth: uncivilised people using the water fountain to wash their hands and feet, or even spitting into the basin (Note: there is no basin with the new type of water dispenser shown in the photo).  May I ask if any of our readers have actually seen this happening in Hong Kong?  Almost everyone now owns a phone which can take photos and videos, if such uncivilised acts actually took place in Hong Kong, photos or video recordings of such acts would have gone viral by now.

I urge MTR stop wasting time making up excuses.  Just follow the good example set by HKU and HKIA and start installing water dispensers inside MTR stations!