Fork in road for efforts to ditch plastic tableware

Top News | Maisy Mok 13 Jul 2021

Plastic cups and food containers could be banned from takeaways and delivery platforms from 2027, says Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing.

It partly depends on the Environment Bureau's two-month public consultation that seeks to bar restaurants from providing disposable plastic tableware as early as 2025.

The consultation on the "scheme on regulation of disposable plastic tableware" will last until September 8.

Under the scheme's first phase, catering premises are prohibited from providing disposable expanded polystyrene tableware and all other disposable plastic tableware - such as straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates - from dine-in services and takeaways.

The ban on plastic cups and their lids and food containers and their covers for takeaway will begin in the second phase. The government also proposed that local sales of plastic tableware be prohibited from 2025.

Wong said on radio yesterday that disposable plastic tableware are among the top three plastic wastes in Hong Kong's landfill.

Asked whether the scheme can be implemented sooner, Wong said it will be launched in an "easy first and difficult later" approach, with reference to similar practices in Taiwan and the mainland.

He said plastic tableware can be banned in the first phase as they have a larger environmental impact and many existing products can replace them.

However, replacements of other disposable plastic tableware have yet to mature, Wong added, considering their efficacy and cost.

He is positive that environment-friendly products will become more affordable as regulating disposable plastic tableware is trending globally, so mass production and diversity in those products are expected in the future.

He said legislation of the scheme could be completed in one to two years.

"We will observe the maturity of those [replacement] products after the launch of the first phase. The second phase can be launched [in 2027]," Wong said.

"For delivery platforms, if they include catering premises they would be considered in the scheme."

Institution of Dining Art chairman Simon Wong Kit-lung said on the same radio program that he supports the idea but the catering sector fears it would affect their business, which has yet to recover.

Wong said there are many replacement tableware in the market that claim to be biodegradable but lack evidence.

He said he tested many containers made of paper and they could cost twice as much as plastic. Besides, sauces easily leaked from paper containers, he added. Wong said the cost of containers would increase by 50 cents to HK$1 if nonplastic ones are used.

And although the scheme is feasible, he said it is hard to assess which replacement products are suitable.

Editorial: Plastic-ban delay a waste of time

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