Chapter 4. Waste prevention – How?
A. What to control?
To tackle the problem of single-use plastics in a more effective way, we need to analyse the characteristics of different products from the following aspects:
- Is it causing adverse environmental impact?
- Is it difficult to recycle?
- Are there reasons to control it at a later stage?
In most cases, single-use plastic is not the only choice we have. We can replace single-use plastic products with reusable products serving similar functions or find some acceptable alternatives made of more environmental-friendly materials.
Using waste paper as wrapping
Umbrella dryer / Reusable umbrella bag
Cotton shopping bag
Paper/wood/bamboo stemmed cotton bud
B. How to control?
From consumers' angle ...
It is more practical to ban non-essential plastics, and plastic products with readily available alternatives.
From recycling angle...
It is sensible to ban hard-to-recycle plastic products.
To ban or restrict the use / the sale of certain single-use plastic products, which may include:
Festivals and celebration products (e.g. decorations, glow stick, inflatable cheer stick, cutlery, stirrer, straw, plate)
Toiletries distributed by hotels (e.g. toothbrush, toothpaste, showering product in small bottle)
Certain packaging (e.g. excessive gift wrapping)
Products with readily affordable or reusable alternatives:
Umbrella bag vs umbrella dryer or reusable umbrella bag
Plastic stemmed cotton bud vs reusable cotton bud
- Producer responsibility scheme
- Limit the use of virgin plastic as raw material of certain product
- Voluntary scheme and campaigns (e.g. improvement of product design)
Enhancement of recycling (e.g. proper source separation and clean recycling)
Promoting the use of alternatives (e.g. refillable pump bottles, cotton shopping bags)
Trade charter scheme (e.g. avoid excessive packaging)
Public education and publicity activities (e.g promulgation of practical guides)
Many places have already / will soon put forward a wide range of control measures targeting different single-use plastic products, as summarised below:
* PRS: abbreviation of Producer Responsibility Scheme
- Star-grade hotels/ guest houses and other entities alike cannot proactively provide single-use plastic items (which include toothbrush, comb, bath sponge, shaving kit, nail file and shoe brush)* by end of 2022, while all the hotels / guest houses/ home-stay lodgings nationwide cannot proactively provide single-use plastic items by the end of 2025.
- Starting from March 2021, the packaging of mail and express mail shall comply with a set of green standards, for instance, to use easy-to-recycle and/or reusable packaging as far as possible, to optimise the design of express packaging and to reduce the use of filling materials.
* The relevant six types of single-use plastic item may vary among different cities in Mainland China.
A specific e-commerce packaging reduction label will be awarded to E-commerce platforms that achieved the requirements listed in the guideline of reducing packaging materials for online shopping, e.g. the weight of packaging material ≤ 10% of the whole package by end of 2019. In addition, incentive will be provided to encourage customers to recycle the package material, so as to increase the utilization rate of reusable package to 10% before the end of 20277.
- To ban plastic umbrella bag in government buildings that have umbrella dryers or water absorbing carpets by 2020. The regulation will be extended to large enterprises and stores from 20225.
- From 2022, single-use personal care products (e.g. shaving kit, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush) will be banned at entities of the lodging business with over 50 rooms. The arrangement will be extended to the entire lodging business by 2024.
Launched The UK Plastics Pact, a voluntary programme aiming to eliminate problematic plastics, which brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK government and NGOs. Pact members will work together to achieve four targets till 2025:
i) eliminate single-use packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery model; ii) adopt 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging; iii) have 70% plastics packaging effectively recycled or composted; and iv) include 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging6.
What is your view?
We have to decide which single-use plastic products to be controlled, as well as the approach and timeline for management.
- Single-use plastics are littered in the natural environment, which causes pollution and harm to wildlife
- Use of single-use plastics increases carbon footprint and poses climate change hazard
- Single-use plastics are difficult to recycle and take up valuable landfill space
- The society's over-reliance on single-use plastics promotes a wasteful culture
For those that should be controlled, should actions be taken in short-term (within 3 years ) or medium-term (3 – 5 years) ? What should be the approach for managing them?
- box for containing fruit / eggs
- non-beverage container
- pre-packaging for vegetables
- multi-pack ring (i.e. those for binding several canned beverage)
- foam tray and platter for fresh fruit, meat, fish or poultry
- wrapping for binding several onsale products
- plastic wrap
- bubble wrap
- packing peanuts
- plastic tape
- plastic rope
- Please see next page on possible enhancement of the Plastic Shopping Bag Charging Scheme currently in place.
- inflatable cheer stick
- glow stick
- single-use tableware sold at retail outlets (e.g. cutlery, stirrer, straw, plate)
- balloon and balloon sticks
- gift wrapping
- event / festival decoration
- shower cap
- showering product in small bottle
- umbrella bag
- supplementary tool sold together with a product for its usage or consumption, such as plastic straw attached to a paper beverage carton
- other toiletries like plastic stemmed cotton buds
- miscellaneous items for meetings, conventions and exhibitions like signage
C. Enhancing existing measure – the Plastic Shopping Bag Charging Scheme
Apart from planning forward on new single-use plastic items, it is equally important to strengthen the existing regulatory measures in place. The Plastic Shopping Bag (PSB) Charging Scheme is the first producer responsibility scheme introduced in Hong Kong, with the first phase implemented from 2009 to 2015, covering some 3,500 registered retail outlets; and the second phase implemented from 2015 onwards covering the entire retail sector. Under the Scheme, save for exemptions, retailers should charge at least 50 cents for each PSB provided to customers. The Scheme has achieved encouraging result. Are there any room for enhancing the Scheme in order to ensure its effectiveness in waste reduction?
For carrying foodstuff in non-airtight packaging
For carrying frozen/chilled foodstuff
Forming part of the services / used for packaging
Room for enhancement 1: Tighten the exemptions
Room for enhancement 2: Avoid multiple layer of packaging
Under the current Scheme, PSB carrying foodstuff in “non-airtight packaging” are exempted from PSB charge. However, some items like eggs and packed vegetables are already fully wrapped by packaging.
Room for enhancement 3: Limit the number of exempted PSBs
At present, there is no limitation on the number of exempted PSBs to be provided.
Room for enhancement 4: Adjust the charging level
The current minimum charge of 50 cents per plastic shopping bag has not been adjusted since the commencement of the first phase of the Scheme introduced in 2009.
|Hong Kong||Minimum HK$0.5 (since 2009)|
|Macao||~HK$1 (since 2019)|
|England||~Minimum HK$1 (since May 2021)|
|Ireland||~HK$2 (since 2007)|
- others: ______(please specify)