Chapter 2. Where are we now?
It is estimated that around 320 million tonnes of plastics are produced all over the world every year3. A majority of plastic waste is disposed of in the landfill or littered in our environment, including an estimated amount of 100 million tonnes of plastics entering the ocean every year.
In Hong Kong, plastic wastes disposed of at landfills increased by 36% from 2009 to 2019 whilst the population grew by only 7.7% over the same period. According to “Monitoring of Solid Waste in Hong Kong Waste Statistics for 2019”, 11,057 tonnes per day (tpd) of overall municipal solid waste (MSW) were disposed of at landfills in 2019, in which about 21%, i.e. around 2,300 tpd, were plastics, which is equivalent to the weight of around 155 double-decker buses.
Among all plastic wastes, plastic bags (including plastic shopping bags and other bags) constitute 33%, plastic diningwares (including Polyfoam-dining wares) 9%, and plastic beverage containers 5%.
There are currently three strategic landfills in Hong Kong, namely, West New Territories (WENT) Landfill, South East New Territories (SENT) [Footnote: Since 6 January 2016, the SENT Landfill can only receive and dispose of construction waste] Landfill and North East New Territories (NENT) Landfill. These three landfills cover a total of over 300 hectares of land, which is equivalent to the size of 15 Victoria Parks; however, existing capacities of our landfills would be exhausted progressively. Bearing in mind that land resources are scarce and extremely valuable in Hong Kong, and that a series of follow-up procedures on the monitoring and maintenance is required as complementary measures, landfilling involves a high social cost. For example, it involves an annual operating cost of $570 million for handling MSW, including waste plastics, disposed of at landfills, not including the land costs of sites currently designated for landfilling. We need to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics with a view to building a better environment and developing a sustainable lifestyle for our next generation.
* Since 6 January 2016, the SENT Landfill can only receive and dispose of construction waste
3 Factsheet “Plastic Waste Partnership” (2019). Retrieved from Basel Convention, Web site: http://www.basel.int/Implementation/Plasticwaste/Guidance/tabid/8333/Default.aspx. Accessed on 3 November 2020.
For plastic reduction, the Government has been promoting “plastic-free” culture in Hong Kong. It is now the time to consider the approach for managing other single-use plastics. Past initiatives on the management of single-use plastics by the Government are listed below:
- 1st phase of the Plastic Shopping Bag(PSB) Charging Scheme
- 2nd phase of the PSB Charging Scheme covering the entire retail sector
- Launching of Recycling Fund
- Ceased the sale of bottled water (1L or less) at government venues
- “Plastic Free Takeaway, Use Reusable tableware” campaign
- “Plastic Free Beach, Tableware First” campaign
- Setting up the Green Outreach
- Reduced the use of disposable tableware in government premises
- Installation of more water dispensers at government venues
- Pilot Scheme on Collection and Recycling Services of Plastic Recyclable Materials
- “Plastic-free” School Lunch Pilot Scheme
- “Reduce and Recycle 2.0” Campaign
- A new brand for the community recycling network, [email protected]
- Establish the Green Tech Fund
- Waste Blueprint for Hong Kong 2035
- Public Consultation on the Producer Responsibility Scheme on Plastic Beverage Containers
- Reverse Vending Machine Pilot Scheme
- Smart Water Dispensers Pilot Scheme
- Public Consultation on Scheme on Regulation of Disposable Plastic Tableware
As announced in the “Waste Blueprint for Hong Kong 2035”, on top of the above initiatives, the Government will also explore the need to handle other single-use plastics.
The Government has also set up various funding support to the industry to encourage the reduction and recycling of plastics (e.g. Recycling Fund, Green Tech Fund, etc.). Recycling Fund provides funding support to the recycling trade and the Green Tech Fund to research and development as well as application of decarbonisation and green technologies.