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LOCAL LIFE: A Practical Guide to Hong Kong’s Plastic Ban


Hong Kong is making significant strides in addressing its waste issue. Starting on April 22, in celebration of Earth Day, the city will introduce the first phase of its city-wide plastic ban, with a waste charge scheme scheduled to be implemented in August. Prepare yourself for the changes coming our way: here’s everything you need to know and LocalHood’s recommendations on how to make this transition smoother for everyone.


First things first. While both a part of Hong Kong’s waste reduction policy, it’s important to note that the plastic ban and municipal waste charge are two different schemes. The imminent plastic ban places responsibility on businesses, such as hospitality, food and beverage establishments, and event organizers, to adopt sustainable alternatives instead of single-use plastics for consumer convenience. The Municipal Solid Waste Charge (also known as MSW Charging), on the other hand, will impact all sectors and the general public, and aims to reduce waste generation by implementing charges based on the quantity.


How bad is our waste, anyway? In our bustling city life, many Hong Kongers have become reliant on disposable items for everyday convenience. Shockingly, 11,128 tonnes of waste are sent to the landfill every day - about 1.15 kg waste generated per person - with plastics accounting for 21% of the total. Despite increased public recycling initiatives, only 32% of recyclables are recovered. As a city with 7.49 million people and limited land resources, these legislations have been long overdue.

 

When will the changes happen? The plastic ban will be implemented in two phases, with the first phase starting on April 22, primarily affecting the sales and free distribution of single-use and disposable items at eateries and hotels. The second phase, scheduled for next year, will ban other items such as single-use tablecloths and plastic-stemmed tooth floss.

 


So, what should you expect? Say goodbye to styrofoam boxes, plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, and plates when dining in or ordering takeout. While food containers, disposable cups, and lids will still be available for takeout at an additional cost, they will no longer be provided at dine-in. At hotels, complimentary disposable toiletries like small-bottled shampoo, toothbrush, and razor, as well as in-room plastic water bottles, will be a thing of the past. Plastic-stemmed cotton buds and toothpicks will also be phased out at retail stores, and non-household items like glow sticks, party hats, and inflatable cheer sticks will no longer be sold or distributed at concerts or events. (Sorry, ravers!)

 

Will individuals be fined? Fortunately, no. The plastic ban regulations primarily apply to businesses, not the general public. Businesses found in violation of the plastic ban may face fines of up to HK$100,000, and law enforcers can issue a penalty ticket of HK$2,000 per violation. With the MSW Charging in August, however, fines and violations could affect everyone.

 

With many restaurants and hotels already using sustainable alternatives, the impact of the plastic ban may be minimal. However, if you rely on Q-tips or enjoy collecting hotel amenities at your staycation, it may be time to reassess and explore other options. Luckily, Hong Kong has no shortage of sustainable alternatives. Here are some recommendations on how to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle:


  1. Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse. While recycling plays a crucial role in waste reduction, the most effective strategy is to avoid or minimize waste altogether. Before purchasing an item, consider whether there are alternatives with less or no packaging, or if it can be recycled or reused. Zero-waste grocery stores like Live Zero and Slowood offer package-free options. Bring your own containers for purchasing bulk food, and you can even borrow a recycled glass jar for your refill.

  2. Bring Your Own. Carry your own containers and utensils at your lunch in case you have leftovers. By doing so, you not only reduce food waste but also avoid additional costs associated with takeaway packaging. Many stores now incentivize customers who bring their own mugs, so you can save a few bucks on your next cuppa. Forgot your tote bag at home? Grab one from CitySuper!

  3. Go Local. While online shopping platforms like TaoBao and Amazon are great, it's important to consider the carbon emissions and packaging associated with overseas purchases. Reduce your carbon footprint by supporting local artisans, farmers, and creators who offer amazing products for you and your loved ones.

  4. Swap, don’t shop. Got a jacket you’ve only worn once? Look out for Facebook groups in your neighbourhood and clothes swap events to give your preloved items a second chance. Shops like Green Ladies and Retykle allow you to donate lightly worn brands or sell them on consignment.

  5. Give back. Donate your clothes, furniture, and stationery to those in need. Participate in community cleanup activities, support sustainable businesses, and explore available recycling programs in your area. The opportunities to give back are endless.

 

By being mindful of our consumption habits, embracing alternatives, supporting local businesses, and participating in community recycling and donation programs, we can contribute to a more sustainable Hong Kong. Remember, every step counts, and together we can make a difference.


 


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