Sustainable development is not merely a vision, but a mission and lifestyle that everyone can live out. With the passage of the relevant bill on Municipal Solid Waste Charging by the Legislative Council in August 2021, Hong Kong’s waste management has entered a new era. With the public starting to embrace a greener lifestyle, the society is calling for more aggressive moves in waste reduction and resource circulation.
The impact of plastic wastes on the environment cannot be underestimated. Earlier this year the Government has conducted public consultations on the Producer Responsibility Scheme on plastic beverage containers and the Scheme on Regulation of Disposable Plastic Tableware, covering two major types of plastic products disposed of in the landfills. Now, we need to turn to the remaining and a very challenging type – single-use plastics.
Many single-use plastics, such as plastic shopping bags, are provided to consumers at low, or no cost, when they purchase. The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased society’s consumption of single-use plastics, for example, packaging used in online shopping, which has become hugely popular. There are now increasing concerns about over-packaging and the plastic waste thus generated. Single-use plastics now appear in every part of our daily lives, as they are easily accessible and convenient to use. However, they also pose a heavy burden to our landfills and the natural environment. In many instances, these products are not strictly necessary, or can be replaced by sustainable alternatives that conserve our natural resources and cause less impact on our environment.
Medical practitioners like myself have taken the Hippocratic Oath – “primum non nocere” or “first, do no harm”. However, “do no harm” might not be sufficient for us to tackle the plastic pandemic. In face of any disease, doctors will never give up looking for a cure. The plastic pandemic can only be effectively dealt with if the Government and the whole society join hands to come up with solutions and take swift actions. This public engagement conducted by the Council for Sustainable Development is the finale of a Trilogy on reducing major types of waste plastics. It seeks the public’s views on which single-use plastic items to tackle, the approach of managing them and the timeline, with the ultimate goal of mapping out Hong Kong’s plan on plastic management. On this, I look forward to hearing from all of you.
Dr the Hon LAM Ching-choi
Chairman, Council for Sustainable Development