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 11,800 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. About 78% 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.
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 sweepers are used to sweep high speed roads, flyovers and central dividers. The Department has put on trial in Tai Po and Yuen Long the use of mini mechanical sweepers to clean roads with low traffic. Special cleansing squads operate on a need basis to clean refuse dumping black spots. They deploy 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.
Litter containers are located at public places including bus stops, major road junctions, ferry concourses and public transport interchanges to facilitate pedestrians' depositing of litter. Following the successful implementation of the litter container reduction programme, the number of litter containers is further reduced from about 14,600 to some 13,600. In addition, newly designed litter containers with smaller openings are put in use to replace the worn-out ones. 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 1,900 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 blackspots. A total of 147 street washing teams from the Department's in-house staff and cleansing service contractors provide day and night street washing services at a frequency ranging from on a need basis to daily depending on the needs of the areas. The Department has progressively introduced pressure water surface cleaners for street cleansing to remove stubborn stains speedily. 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.
There are 2,970 refuse collection points (RCPs) in Hong Kong. These include 159 permanent off-street RCPs, 13 temporary RCPs, 873 village-type RCPs/RCPs with temporary structures, and 1,925 bin sites. The permanent off-street RCPs generally operate from 7 am to 3.30 pm, and up to 11.30 pm in busy areas, with some operating round the clock to meet the need of the community for such service. 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 5,920 tonnes of household and street waste are collected daily - 1,070 from Hong Kong Island, 1,820 from Kowloon and 3,030 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 77% 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 for 2,883 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 34,869 kilogrammes of waste paper, 4,735 kilogrammes of metal and 57,402 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. Altogether, 799 public toilets are managed by the Department - 90 on Hong Kong Island, 62 in Kowloon, and 647 in the New Territories and on outlying islands. In addition, there are 53 aqua privies in the New Territories and on outlying islands.
Since 2000, the Department has implemented an on-going Public Toilet Refurbishment Programme to improve the design and facilities of public toilets. 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.
The Department commenced refurbishment or facelifting works at 23 public toilets at major tourist spots in August 2018 with a view to enhancing toilet features or replacing aged facilities. In addition, to improve the hygiene conditions of public toilets, deep cleansing operations were conducted at 83 public toilets of high usage rate or at major tourist spots and introduction of facilities supported by new technologies has been explored while inspection was also stepped up to strengthen the monitoring of the cleansing work.
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 also follows the prevailing statutory requirements in the provision of accessible unisex toilets stipulated in the "Design Manual - Barrier Free Access 2008". Priority compartments for the elderly as well as universal toilet will be provided in newly-built/refurbished public toilets where practicable.
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 2018, the Department handled about 36,700, 25,200 and 10,400 related complaint cases respectively.
Officers of the Health Inspector, 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 1,335 convictions were recorded.
The Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness and Obstruction) 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 2018, about 49,680 fixed penalty notices were issued by FEHD staff against these littering offences.
To address the environmental hygiene problems caused by frequent deposits of refuse and waste at hygiene black spots in individual districts, the Department has extended the scheme on installation of Internet Protocol (IP) cameras at illegal refuse deposit blackspots to all districts for one year starting from June 2018 to curb illegal deposits of refuse.
The Department also stepped up enforcement actions against the unauthorised display of easy-mount frames and other display fittings for business promotion on busy streets in various districts from September to October 2018 with a view to curbing the illegal activities and improving the district environment.
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 generally adopt a "warning first, followed by prosecution" strategy. The Department will continue with the above strategy in monitoring on-street hawking activities.
As at the end of 2018, there were 5,148 hawkers carrying out business in licensed fixed-pitch stalls and 383 licensed itinerant hawkers. 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 2,300 trained staff who are assigned to about 190 squads of the hawker control team.
Hawker control staff inspect fixed hawker pitches regularly and regulate the operation of itinerant hawkers to ensure that licensing conditions and relevant legal provisions are observed. They also take enforcement action to prevent irregularities caused by licensed or illegal hawkers. There were 7,697 convictions for offences related to hawking in 2018.
Since the launch of the five-year Assistance Scheme for Hawkers in Fixed-pitch Hawker Areas in June 2013, financial assistance has been offered to 4,329 hawkers in 43 fixed-pitch hawker areas to reduce fire risks in these hawker areas and all 508 fixed-pitch hawkers whose stalls were directly in front of staircase discharge points of buildings or places that might obstruct emergency vehicular operations were relocated in 2017. As at 2 June 2018 (the end date of the Scheme), the Department received 3,424 applications for relocation and reconstruction grants, and 854 hawkers surrendered their licences for ex-gratia-payments, making up a participation rate of 98.8%.
Illegal extension of business from shops is a street management issue that falls within the purview of several government departments which have respective roles to play. As part of the joint-departmental efforts to tackle the shop front extension problem, the Department has been taking more stringent enforcement actions against illegal activities. Direct prosecutions have been instituted against habitual offenders in shop front extension blackspots without issuing prior warnings every time. Seizure actions have also been taken to achieve a stronger deterrent effect. A total of five shop front extension control task force teams were set up to strengthen enforcement actions at shop front extension blackspots across the territory.
In addition, with the Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness and Obstruction) Ordinance taking effect on 24 September 2016. the Department and the Hong Kong Police Force have been empowered to enforce the fixed penalty system as an additional tool to tackle the problem of shop front extensions. In 2018, over 3,500 prosecutions and 7,500 fixed penalty notices were instituted against shop front extensions.
In 2018, the Department organised 15 Lunar New Year Fairs in 13 districts from 10 to 16 February, and the Che Kung Festival Fair in Sha Tin and the Lam Tsuen Fong Ma Po Fair in Tai Po from 13 February to 2 March. There were about 2,100 stalls offering commodities ranging from seasonal flowers and plants to traditional food, festive decorations, dry goods and fast food. 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 74 wet markets, with about 13,070 stalls offering commodities ranging from fresh food to household items, and about 1,020 stalls in 39 cooked food centres and 25 free-standing cooked food markets. By end 2018, 12,539 stalls were let out, with 313 stalls vacant, and 1,236 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.
During the year, various market promotional activities were carried out in public markets and cooked food centres/markets to enhance patronage. These included festive decorations and celebration activities during Lunar New Year, Tuen Ng and Mid-Autumn Festivals and Christmas/New Year and display of "Recipes of Chef's Daily Recommendation" in Chinese, English, Filipino and Indonesian. A multi-lingual booklet on common foods/goods items and service trades in public markets was also 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 2018, 1,697 prosecutions were taken against market stall operators for breach of statutory provisions.
The Department continues to bolster the operating environment of public markets by improving management, upgrading facilities, providing more flexible mix of trade and carrying out promotional activities. In addition to regular maintenance, the Department is implementing the Market Modernisation Programme, which aims to improve the operating environment of public markets to benefit market patrons with a more pleasant market environment and a wider variety of fresh food provision choices, and tenants with better market design and facilities conducive to doing business. To ensure smooth operation of lifts and escalators in public markets, the Department has been replacing by phases aged lifts and escalators and earmarked to date $415 million to replace 46 lifts and 120 escalators in 31 public markets. Besides, the Department is conducting a comprehensive review of its existing public markets and will implement the reform measures on the management of public markets in a pragmatic, prudent and rational manner.
Apart from the above, the Department has started planning for building new public market facilities in Tung Chung Town Centre and New Town Extension, Tin Shui Wai and Hung Shui Kiu, with consideration being given to adopting new approaches to the design, construction and operation of such projects. The Department is also identifying suitable locations in Tseung Kwan O and the Kwu Tung North New Development Area to build new markets.
The frequency of inspection on overnight stocking of live poultry to the existing 130 retail outlets has been stepped up for better control of human infection of avian influenza (AI). 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.
Preventive measures continue to be adopted, including (a) taking samples of faecal, drinking water, defeathering machine and chopping board at live poultry retail outlets to test for AI virus; (b) conducting regular inspections to live poultry retail outlets to ensure compliance with the special licensing or tenancy conditions on AI control; (c) cleansing common parts of FEHD markets thoroughly 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) conducting regular inspections, 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 92% (43,803) of deceased were cremated. Upon completion of the reprovisioning of Wo Hop Shek Crematorium and Cape Collinson Crematorium in February 2013 and December 2015 respectively, the cremation capacity and efficiency of the crematoria provided by the Department have been increased to meet the increasing demand for cremation service. Environmentally friendly features were also introduced for cremation facilities.
For public convenience, the 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 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, or be made online. At present, some 214,700 niches are provided for the storage of cremated ashes in eight public columbaria.
Since the Private Columbaria Ordinance (Cap. 630) (the Ordinance) came into effect on 30 June 2017, a person must obtain a specified instrument, namely a licence, an exemption or a temporary suspension of liability in order to operate, keep, manage or in any other way have control of a private columbarium unless the grace period is applicable to the columbarium. Any person who fails to comply with this legal requirement is liable to prosecution and, on summary conviction, to a fine of $2 million and to imprisonment for three years, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine of $5 million and to imprisonment for seven years.
The Private Columbaria Licensing Board (Licensing Board), which was established on 8 September 2017, is the statutory body responsible for regulating the operation and management of private columbaria. As at end of 2018, about 340 applications for specified instruments submitted by 141 private columbaria were being processed by the Licensing Board.
The Private Columbaria Affairs Office provides executive support to the Licensing Board and handles matters relating to the implementation of the Ordinance. Apart from processing of applications for specified instruments, it also conducts inspections and takes enforcement actions to combat against the illegal operation of private columbaria. During the year, about 530 site inspections and investigation on about 70 cases of suspected contravention of the Ordinance were conducted, resulting in making arrest in three cases and prosecution against the operator of one columbarium.
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, providing a more spacious venue for family members and friends to hold memorial ceremonies for the deceased. The Department has further increased the number of sailings to once every Saturday (except public holidays) starting from August 2015. There were 972 cases of scattering ashes at sea and 5,352 cases of scattering ashes in the Gardens of Remembrance in 2018. In addition to the free ferry service for scattering cremated ashes at sea, since 2014 Ching Ming Festival, the Department has also arranged a total of 20 memorial sailings during the Ching Ming Festival and Chung Yeung Festival for the public to pay tribute to their loved ones whose ashes were scattered at sea. A total of 1,608 families with 4,234 participants have joined the trips as at 2018.
The Department 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) and a mobile app were also introduced in 2011 and 2018 respectively to facilitate mobile device users to pay tribute to their loved ones anytime and anywhere. By the end of 2018, around 9,881 users registered and about 12,528 memorial webpages were created. A thematic webpage on green burial (www.greenburial.gov.hk) was also launched in 2018 to facilitate public access to information on green burial services.