Op-ed Article

Embrace Hong Kong’s plastic ban – for the sake of your own health

It is time to say goodbye to some disposable plastic items when the first phase of the ban is rolled out on Earth Day on April 22. The move is much needed as plastic tableware is often too contaminated and the items too small to be recycled effectively. But that is not the full extent of the problem.

"The Fraud of Plastic Recycling”, a report by The Centre for Climate Integrity, recently revealed that, for decades, the petrochemical industry has been treating the plastic waste crisis as a public relations issue, instead of a technical or economic challenge. The report accused the industry of promoting plastic recycling as a way to ward off regulations and keep demand growing. Even as countries are negotiating a global treaty on plastic pollution, industry lobbyists are pushing for new solutions like chemical recycling without addressing the core issue – the disposability of single-use plastics.

The reality is that only 9 per cent of all plastic waste generated has been recycled, and our plastic addiction is causing irrevocable change to the environment. For instance, plastic rock complexes – or "plastistones” – have been found across several countries and are being recognised as a novel sedimentary rock by geologists.

Even more worrying is that microplastics and nanoplastics can now be found in our blood, and a study on mice showed that they can penetrate the blood-brain barrier. A recently published study saw a link between their presence in our major arteries and the increased risk of heart attack, stroke or death.

As more jurisdictions embrace the growing global movement towards banning plastics, Hong Kong too must heed the call to protect our environment and ourselves. We already have disposable items made of more sustainable materials, such as paper or wood, available today. Of course, the better option is to stop using disposable items in the first place.

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