Chapter 6. Summary
This public engagement exercise aims to provide every member of the community with information on the subject of plastics and explore relevant issues with a view to identifying ways to move away from non-essential and hard-to-recycle single-use plastic items.
Plastics are light, durable and inexpensive. They are commonly used in our daily lives. However, they can persist in the environment for hundreds of years which impacts our ecosystems, endangers animal lives and also threatens human health. Single-use plastics are particularly harmful to the environment because they are usually made from low-value and hard-to-recycle plastics, and are small in size, which make them difficult to be separated, sorted and cleaned for recycling. Single-use plastic items have already dominated almost every area of our lives and can be found in numerous products, which includes local product packaging, local retail packaging, local packaging for logistics and online shopping, festival and celebration products, toiletries distributed by hotels, shopping bag, health and protective equipment and other single-use plastic items such as umbrella bag, etc.
In Hong Kong, 11,057 tonnes per day (tpd) of overall municipal solid waste (MSW) were disposed of at landfills in 2019, in which about 21% of MSW, i.e. around 2,300 tpd, were plastics, which is equivalent to the weight of around 155 double decker buses.
To tackle the problem of single-use plastics, we should decide on which product to control as well as how to control. 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. Apart from planning forward on which new types of single-use plastic items to be controlled, it is equally important to strengthen the existing regulatory measures in place such as the Plastic Shopping Bag Charging Scheme. However, it may be more difficult to phase out certain single-use plastic items due to operational reasons, and there may not be readily available alternatives for all single-use plastic products. In such cases, when prevention is not feasible, it is important to practise reuse as far as possible, to recycle the single-use plastics item, and to ensure the item is disposed of properly.