(Photo Credit: Environment and Ecology Bureau, HKSAR Government)

The Hong Kong SAR government is proposing amendments, including higher levy, to the Plastic Shopping Bag Charging Scheme. While some may argue that higher levy cannot help reduce plastic waste, no one should deny the fact that plastics waste are harmful to our environment. Noticeably, plastic wastes was the third largest source of waste for Hong Kong, accounting for 21% of the city’s municipal solid waste. Plastic bags are just one form of plastic waste. The disposal of plastic bottles is another issue that the government needs to address.

When compared with other cities, Hong Kong has low plastic recycling rate. This could be explained by a few key factors including the lack of convenient recycling facilities in Hong Kong and the low financial incentives for plastics. For plastic bottles the recycling has been largely driven by the private sector and consumers. The government has been slowly reacting. We welcome the rollout of the Reverse Vending Machine Pilot Scheme by the Environmental Protection Department started last year. However the number of reverse vending machines on the market is limited and their geographical coverage is insufficient. Moreover, the financial incentive for recycling is unattractive at HK$0.1 per bottle, which is the lowest in the world according to Green Queen[1].

The use of plastics and the associated wastes generated is threatening our environment and the sustainability of our economy. But these threats could be translated into opportunities. To address the challenges from the plastic waste, we need to mobilize capital in both the private sector and the public sector. The role of government is critical. With the right regulations, the supportive policies and proper public finance mechanism, private investments would be incentivized to tackle the issues. The Global Plastic Action Partnership published an investment toolkit to demonstrate a series of case studies of cooperation between private and public sectors to create circular economy for plastics.[2]

In general, we urge the Hong Kong SAR government to step up up its efforts not only in tackling plastic wastes but also in other environmental challenges. We are looking forward to the government’s sustainability strategy, plan and execution roadmap for the medium and long term.

[1] Hong Kong’s Plastic Bottle Bill Looks Set For Failure, Here Are 8 Reasons Why. Green Queen. June 2021

[2] Global Plastic Action Partnership. February 2022