Officials told not to bottle it with cheap plastic rebate

Local | Mandy Zheng 14 May 2021

Five Hong Kong-based green groups have called for a plastic bottle deposit scheme under which people receive a HK$1 refund for each plastic bottle they return for recycling at collection points.

According to a survey commissioned by Greeners Action, Greenpeace, Green Power, Green Sense and The Green Earth, a 10-cent rebate proposed by the SAR administration will be regarded by the public as an a-dime-a-dozen plan that would not accelerate a transition to wider recycling.

Their findings came as the administration is in the final straight of a consultation on the producer responsibility scheme on plastic beverage containers that ends next Friday.

Under the administration's proposal, a recycling levy will be collected from plastic bottle beverage manufacturers and importers that would translate into a 10-cent rebate each time a bottle is collected for recycling.

In the poll conducted from April 23 to 27, 1,008 respondents were asked for their thoughts on the plan.

The findings showed the public would be more likely to take the trouble if the rebate is 10 times that proposed.

Eight out of 10 respondents reported being keen if a HK$1 rebate is given, but only 40 percent said they might do it if a 10-cent rebate is given.

"People don't like to collect coins. HK$1 is still acceptable, but many people might refuse to take back a bunch of cents," said Robert Chung Ting-yiu, the president of Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, which was commissioned to conduct the poll.

However, Greeners Action project manager Wong Ka-chi said manufacturers are unlikely to support such a move, as it would mean "requiring them to inject more resources."

If the rebate is set at 10 cents per container, the recycling levy would be around 50 to 65 cents per 500 milliliter container, citing the government's proposal.

Wong said a deposit scheme would be a better alternative, "so there wouldn't be any financial loss for the beverage sector and the public as long as people fulfill their responsibility to return their bottles."

Under the deposit scheme, each time a plastic bottled beverage is sold, part of the money spent is a refundable deposit they can get back once they return the bottle.

Around 71 percent would be likely to make the effort if a dollar deposit is returned for each bottle.

The green groups said such a deposit scheme has existed for a long time and has been effective in recycling glass milk bottles at convenience stores.

The survey also showed that housing estates, convenience stores, MTR stations and bus stations are the top choices for plastic bottle collection point locations.

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