A 10 HK cents rebate per plastic bottle will be offered to people who return drinking containers under a proposed mechanism to encourage recycling.
A three-month consultation on a producer responsibility scheme for plastic beverage containers began yesterday and a pilot scheme on the 10-cent rebate rolled out by the Environmental Protection Department.
Manufacturers and importers are estimated to pay a recycling levy of about 50 HK cents to 65 HK cents for a 500-milliliter container to help recover the operating costs of the scheme.
Certain retail stores selling plastic beverage bottles will serve as collection points to enable returns.
"The plastic beverage containers collected will then be supplied to local recyclers for proper recycling, turning the containers into marketable recycled materials," a spokesman for the department said.
The scheme aims to greatly cut down the 1.55 billion plastic bottles disposed into landfills a year, equivalent to 2,690 double-decker buses or an average of more than 200 bottles per person.
The government has already rolled out a one-year reverse vending machine pilot scheme that will pave the way for the implementation of the producer responsibility scheme.
Under the scheme, 40 vending machines are currently in service across Hong Kong and 20 more machines will be set up. The machines will provide an instant rebate of 10 HK cents via an e-payment platform such as the Octopus card for every plastic container returned.
Green groups welcomed the initiative.
Greeners Action executive director Angus Ho Hon-wai agreed the beverage business should bear the responsibility in recycling with the levy, but he did not believe the scheme would be significant as people might not find the rebate sum encouraging.
Ho and the Green Earth senior project officer Edmund Lau Shiu-long suggested a "deposit and return" recycling scheme instead of offering a rebate to create a stronger sense of responsibility in recycling.
Based on his group's analysis of other countries' experiences, "we estimate the recycling rate will increase by 70 percent if each bottle is given a 50 cent rebate."
Lau also noted a lack of a laws to seek responsibility from plastic producers.