Maintaining a clean and hygienic living environment for the public is another key responsibility of the Department. The range of services includes street cleansing; waste collection; management of public toilets and aqua privies, public markets, cemeteries, crematoria and columbaria; and hawker management.
The Department and its cleansing contractors have a combined workforce of about 10,900 engaged in the provision of cleansing services, including street sweeping and washing, gully emptying, waste collection, and management of public toilets, aqua privies and refuse collection points.
Street sweeping is essential to keeping the city clean. All streets are swept manually from one to four times a day, depending on the need of the areas. Streets in highly pedestrianised areas or popular tourist spots may be swept up to eight times a day.
In addition to manual sweeping, mechanical suction sweepers are used to sweep highways, flyovers, central dividers and other busy traffic spots. Special cleansing squads operate on a need basis to clean hygiene black spots. They deploy tipper lorries to remove large abandoned articles and bulky waste that cannot be handled by street sweepers. The squads also undertake urgent clearance operations in the event of traffic accidents or natural disasters.
To facilitate the general public, there are about 20,910 litter containers located at almost every bus stop, major road junction, ferry concourse and public transport interchange. They are emptied at a frequency of one to eight times daily, depending on the need of the areas. The Department also provides some 450 dog latrines and 1,610 dog excreta collection bins.
Regular street washing is carried out in public places, including pavements, service lanes, hawker permitted areas, refuse collection points and hygiene black spots. A total of 120 street washing teams from the Department's in-house staff and cleansing service contractors wash heavily patronised pedestrian precincts and hawker/hygiene black spots at least twice weekly; busy areas at least once a week; and other areas on a need basis. For trunk roads with heavy traffic where normal washing is not practicable, flushing is done during non-busy hours.
Roadside gullies are cleared manually once every two to four weeks. Gully traps on highways and flyovers are cleared once every six weeks by mechanical gully emptiers after midnight when traffic is light.
About 77% of the Department's street cleansing services have been outsourced. A monitoring and sanction mechanism is in place to ensure that contractors deliver satisfactory services.
There are 3,186 refuse collection points (RCPs) in Hong Kong. These include 159 permanent off-street RCPs, which generally operate from 7 am to 3.30 pm, and up to 11.30 pm in busy areas; 36 temporary RCPs; 705 village-type RCPs; and 2,286 bin sites. The RCPs are of different designs to suit actual needs and site constraints. They are used for temporary storage of street litter and household waste pending collection. Whenever circumstances permit, the Department makes improvements to RCPs to minimise any possible environmental nuisance to nearby residents.
Waste in RCPs is collected at least once daily. About 5,340 tonnes of household waste are collected daily - 1,020 from Hong Kong Island, 1,660 from Kowloon and 2,660 from the New Territories and outlying islands. Waste is delivered to refuse transfer stations or landfills managed by the Environmental Protection Department. The Department has outsourced about 73% of its refuse collection services. It has a monitoring and sanction mechanism to ensure that waste collection contractors deliver satisfactory services.
In support of the Government's initiative to reduce waste, the Department provides recyclables collection service to 3,380 collection points in public places, schools, clinics and government venues to recover waste paper, metal and plastic materials.
During the year, the average monthly weight of recyclable materials collected was 43,270 kilogrammes of waste paper, 1,428 kilogrammes of metal and 14,539 kilogrammes of plastic materials.
Wherever possible, retread tyres are used on the departmental vehicle fleet. In the past year, the ratio of brand-new to retread tyres was 1:0.3.
Public toilets are provided mainly at tourist spots and busy areas, including ferry concourses, bus termini and picnic areas. Altogether, 769 public toilets are managed by the Department - 94 on Hong Kong Island, 63 in Kowloon, and 612 in the New Territories and on outlying islands. In addition, there are 78 aqua privies in the New Territories and on outlying islands.
Since 2000, the Department has implemented an on-going Public Toilet Refurbishment Programme to give a new look to public toilets with enhancement in design and facilities. The Department is committed to making continuous effort in improving the hygiene, safety and comfort of public toilets. Many public toilets have been installed with new features, such as automatic infrared sensor water taps, hand dryers, urinal bowls and hand basins at children's height, baby changing counters, and coat hooks and racks inside individual toilet compartments for users to place their personal belongings. Air fresheners, hand sanitisers, liquid soap dispensers and toilet paper are provided in all public toilets. To ensure that public toilets are kept clean at all times, the Department employs attendants to station at those with high usage to provide immediate cleansing services.
Pursuant to the government policy of incorporating gender mainstreaming in project design and to meet the needs of both genders, the Department adopts a general planning ratio of two female toilet compartments to every male toilet compartment.
The Department has, since 2005, implemented a conversion programme to convert aqua privies in the New Territories and on outlying islands into flushing toilets by phases. For aqua privies that are yet to be converted or with site constraints that restrict physical improvements, the Department has put in use microbial odour-arresting agents to alleviate odour problems. Toilet paper, liquid soap dispensers, hand dryers and hand sanitisers are provided.
The Department deals with environmental nuisances, including those caused by water seepage, dripping air-conditioners and accumulation of refuse, by issuing advisory letters and statutory Nuisance Notices to ensure abatement. In 2013, the Department handled about 28,500, 18,200 and 5,600 related complaint cases respectively.
Officers of the health inspectorate, foreman and hawker control grades of the Department are empowered to issue summonses against people committing cleanliness offences. Apart from day-to-day enforcement action, anti-littering raids are conducted. During the year, about 780 convictions were recorded.
The Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness Offences) Ordinance empowers enforcement officers to issue $1,500 fixed penalty notices for minor cleanliness offences, including littering, spitting, unauthorised display of bills or posters, and dog fouling in public place. In 2013, about 34,900 fixed penalty notices were issued by FEHD staff.
It has been the standing policy of the Administration to satisfactorily regulate licensed hawking activities and take enforcement action against illegal hawkers. Apart from the sale of cooked food or restricted food without a licence, or conducting hawking activities in main thoroughfares, areas where there are high pedestrian flow or places where there are repeated complaints, enforcement staff adopt a "warning first, followed by prosecution" strategy. The Department will continue with the above strategy in monitoring on-street hawking activities.
The number of licensed hawkers, including both fixed pitch and itinerant ones, gradually fell over the years and there were 6,546 such hawkers by the end of 2013. After consulting relevant stakeholders and the Legislative Council Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene on the proposals of a hawker licensing policy review conducted in 2008-09, the Department has been taking actions to implement the proposals.
The management and control of hawkers is the responsibility of about 2,100 trained staff who are assigned to 191 hawker control teams.
Hawker control staff inspect fixed hawker pitches regularly and regulate the operation of itinerant hawkers to ensure that licensing conditions and relevant legislative provisions are observed. They also take enforcement action to prevent irregularities caused by licensed or illegal hawkers. There were 31,358 convictions for offences related to hawking in 2013.
Following a fire at the hawker stalls at Fa Yuen Street in November 2011, the Department, apart from strengthening its work on the management of the hawker areas, launched a five-year "Assistance Scheme for Hawkers in Fixed-pitch Hawker Areas" (the Assistance Scheme) on 3 June 2013. The Assistance Scheme aims at reducing fire risk posed by on-street hawking activities. It provides financial assistance to some 4,300 hawkers in 43 hawker areas for improving the fire safety and design of hawker stalls, and relocating their stalls away from staircase discharge points of buildings, emergency vehicular access, etc. Besides, an ex-gratia payment is offered under the Assistance Scheme to hawkers who voluntarily surrender their hawker licences. This would help expedite release of vacant pitches to facilitate relocation of stalls which pose higher fire risks.
Since 3 June 2013, 185 hawkers have applied for relocation cum reconstruction or in-situ relocation grant under the Assistance Scheme. Among them, seven hawkers have relocated their stalls, some of which have also completed reconstruction of stall structures. A total of 204 hawkers have surrendered their licences for ex-gratia payment, of which 37 hawker stalls were operating just outside staircase discharge points of buildings and required to be relocated.
In 2013, the Department organised 14 Lunar New Year Fairs in 12 districts from 4 to 10 February and two Lunar New Year Fairs in two districts from 10 to 24 February. There were about 2,000 stalls offering commodities ranging from seasonal flowers and plants to traditional food, festive decorations, dry goods and fast food, and services of fortune-telling. The fairs not only provided additional leisure and shopping places for citizens and tourists, but also added zest to the festivity during the Lunar New Year period.
Public markets and cooked food centres/markets serve an important role in meeting public demand for fresh and cooked food and dry goods. There are 76 public markets, with about 13,400 stalls offering commodities ranging from fresh food to household items, and about 1,050 stalls in 39 cooked food centres and 25 free-standing cooked food markets. By end 2013, 13,061 stalls were let out, with 415 stalls vacant, and 969 stalls frozen for designated purposes such as re-siting and renovation. Stalls are let through auction, with successful bidders entering into a tenancy agreement with the Department.
To enhance the vibrancy of public markets, the Department has introduced service trades, snack shops and bakeries to certain markets with vacant stalls since mid-2009. By end 2013, 102 service trade stalls, seven snack stalls and one bakery stall were let out.
During the year, various market promotion activities were carried out in public markets and cooked food centres/markets to attract patronage. These included festive decorations and celebration activities during Lunar New Year, Tuen Ng and Mid-Autumn Festivals and Christmas/New Year, thematic exhibitions and talks with cooking demonstrations, and display of "Recipes of Chef's Daily Recommendation" in Chinese, English, Pilipino and Indonesian. An information booklet on public markets and cooked food markets and a quarterly Market Newsletter were published for wide distribution.
Market staff undertake daily checks to ensure that stall operators observe the law and tenancy conditions. Health inspectorate officers inspect meat, poultry, fish and cooked food stalls regularly to ensure compliance with relevant legislation and codes of hygiene practices and that food is clean and wholesome. Enforcement action is taken as and when necessary. In 2013, 1,247 prosecutions were taken against market stall operators for breach of statutory provisions and, as a result of investigation into suspected subletting cases, five market stall tenancies were terminated by the Department.
The frequency of inspection on overnight stocking of live poultry to the existing 132 retail outlets has been stepped up for better control of human infection of avian influenza. During major Chinese festive periods, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, Winter Solstice and Lunar New Year where over-stocking of live poultry is common, the inspection frequency will be increased further.
Apart from stepping up surveillance against H7N9, the Department has taken additional preventive measures. These include (a) taking additional faecal and drinking water samples at live poultry retail outlets to test for H1 to H16 virus; (b) stepping up inspection of live poultry retail outlets to ensure compliance with the special licensing or tenancy conditions on AI control; (c) cleansing of common parts of FEHD markets with disinfectant three times daily; (d) daily cleansing of live poultry market stalls after business hours, followed by another thorough cleansing and disinfection by FEHD contractors; (e) maintaining the cleanliness of market stalls' ventilating systems; and (f) stepping up inspection, washing and disinfection of public places where wild birds gather and taking stringent enforcement action against feeding of wild birds in public places.
The Department manages six government crematoria, 10 public cemeteries and eight public columbaria for the provision of cremation and burial services to the public. It also monitors the management of 27 private cemeteries in accordance with the provisions of the Private Cemeteries Regulation. Six years after their burial in public cemeteries, human remains have to be exhumed for either cremation or reburial in an urn cemetery.
The Government's policy is to promote cremation over burial. During the year, about 90% (38,914) of deceased were cremated. Upon completion of the reprovisioning of Wo Hop Shek Crematorium and Cape Collinson Crematorium (Phase I) in January 2013, the Department proceeds to upgrade the cremation facilities at Cape Collinson Crematorium (Phase II) to increase capacity and efficiency to meet the increasing demand for cremation service. Environmentally friendly features are also introduced for these facilities.
For public convenience, booking of cremation sessions at all of the six public crematoria, namely Cape Collinson, Diamond Hill, Fu Shan, Wo Hop Shek, Kwai Chung and Cheung Chau, can either be made in person, online or through licensed undertakers of burials at Wu Chung House in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island and Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices in Kowloon.
Including new niches in Wo Hop Shek Kiu Tau Road Columbarium, Diamond Hill Columbarium and Cheung Chau Columbarium, some 214,300 niches are provided for the storage of cremated ashes in eight public columbaria. In addition, the Department has been actively promoting sustainable means of burial by encouraging the public to scatter ashes of their ascendants in its 11 Gardens of Remembrance or in designated Hong Kong waters. In January 2010, the Department launched a pilot scheme of providing free ferry service for families of the deceased to scatter ashes at sea. In view of the increasing number of families choosing this form of interment, the Department enhanced its free ferry service from mid-January 2012 by employing a bigger vessel which can accommodate more than 300 passengers. Apart from offering a more stable and comfortable sea voyage, the bigger vessel provides a more spacious venue for family members and friends to hold memorial ceremonies for the deceased. As the ferry service is well received by the public, the Department has increased the number of sails from twice to thrice each month since June 2012, and has further increased the number of sails to four times per month starting from January 2013. There were 797 cases of scattering ashes at sea and 2,354 cases of scattering ashes in the Gardens of Remembrance in 2013.
The Department also launched the Internet Memorial Service (IMS) in June 2010 for members of the public to pay tribute and express condolences to their lost loved ones at any time and from anywhere online through a dedicated webpage (www.memorial.gov.hk). A mobile version (m.memorial.gov.hk) was also introduced in 2011 to further enhance the service. By the end of 2013, around 5,500 registered users and about 6,000 memorial webpages were created.