Most universities in Hong Kong provide students with free printing quotas, but eyebrows have been raised regarding their environmental efficiency
Once designed to reduce paper wastage and promote environmental living, the free printing quota system adopted by universities across Hong Kong has come under fire for promoting the opposite instead.
Students under such systems are entitled to personal accounts for on-campus printing service. Some universities require students to pay to print, while some provide a generous amount of free quota.
Hong Kong Baptist University, for example, grants its students an annual printing quota of 400 pages. They will also get 100 more when they are promoted to the next academic year.
According to Mr Wong Sun-lung, technical officer at the university's Department of Journalism, some students are entitled to two sets of free printing quotas, one from the university and one from their department of study.
Environmentalists are concerned that the convenience of the quota systems comes at a considerable environmental price.
"A tonne of paper – 200,000 sheets approximately – equals to the killing of 17 trees," says Ms Karry Lai, an event relations manager at EcoVision Asia, a local environmental NGO.
She believes local universities are giving students a lot more printing quotas than what is necessary and says that a considerable amount of unused paper are left behind by universities each year.
"If they don't need it, the funds for the paper printing could go elsewhere, somewhere more meaningful," said Ms Lai.
She says a users-pay system is far more efficient when it comes to reducing paper wastage.
"At the end of the day, it is all about cost," Ms Lai adds. "If it costs more to print, students will think twice before doing so."
Another advocate for a pay-as-you-print system is Ms Mayling Chan, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Hong Kong. "The more you charge, the more forests will be saved," she says.
On top of that, Ms Chan doubts the need to print paper documents at all.
"A lot of things can now be digitally resolved. This is the digital age now," says Ms Chan. "I don't know why people still need to print out to read?"
On the other hand, there are other universities in Hong Kong that do not provide students with free printing quota at all. Ms Sandy Au Wing-nga, a third-year student at Hong Kong Shue Yan University, says paper wastage is not an issue in her university as students must pay for everything.
"If they (students) need to pay for printing they will most likely put several pages of PowerPoint into a single page. But if they have free quotas they might print it in normal size," says Ms Au, adding that students have become far more environmentally conscious without printing quotas.
Reported by Natasha Chan
Edited by Coco Zheng
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