Plastic tableware — end in sight

By Gu Mengyan | HK EDITION | Updated: 2021-08-23 10:25
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Hong Kong is set to launch a two-phase campaign to stamp out disposable plastic tableware. Gu Mengyan reports from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong will be on track to get rid of plastic tableware after the two-month-long public consultation on the Scheme on Regulation of Disposable Plastic Tableware ends in early September.

Wong Kam-sing, the financial hub's secretary for the environment, said the city has a clear goal in phasing out the use of plastic tableware, but has yet to set a clear timeline.

According to official statistics, an average 200 tons of discarded plastic tableware were dumped at Hong Kong's landfills daily in 2019. This is equivalent to roughly 14.6 billion pieces of plastic cutlery or up to 1,940 pieces by each person, thrown away during the year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the problem as more people turn to takeaway food. A report by data analytics company Nielsen last year showed that Hong Kong topped a list of 11 Asian economies with 46 percent of consumers showing a high preference for takeaways.

"If there are enough alternative materials for making plastic tableware, these disposable products will no longer be used. Having zero plastic tableware is clearly our aim," said the environment chief when he called for public consultations on a two-pronged campaign to eliminate plastic tableware in the city.

The first phase, due to be implemented around 2025, would prohibit restaurants from providing all types of disposable plastic tableware to customers for dine-in service. For takeaways, catering premises would not be allowed to offer straws, stirrers, forks, knives, spoons and plates that are small in size and difficult for recycling.

The second phase, in which takeaway service would be similarly regulated, is likely to start 12 to 18 months after the first phase kicks off.

"We understand that using disposable tableware is inevitable in some cases. It will not be a blanket ban. The discussions will be in phases … so that catering businesses will have more time to adapt to the new rules," said Wong.

"If people favor regulation through legislation, the whole (catering) industry can develop more healthily, striking a balance between the economy, the community and ecology," he added.

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