Hong Kong’s mounting plastic waste calls for more recyclers and container deposits

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 November, 2017, 9:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 November, 2017, 11:09pm

I urge the Hong Kong government to implement laws for refundable deposits on plastic drink containers. This is a necessary step to tackle our plastic waste problem.

The amount of plastic waste created has increased rapidly since 1950. Hong Kong already discards 206 tonnes of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic and non-PET plastic bottles every day. Our landfills are filling up quickly. By the end of this decade, the three existing landfills will be full, and we would need to allocate an extra 400 hectares for new landfill sites to meet our waste disposal needs up to 2030.

Most importantly, plastic waste can harm the environment, by making its way into marine animals and causing damage to the ecosystem, as well as to humans who consume sea animals. Birds, turtles and sea creatures can get tangled in plastic bags or die from eating plastic debris. We need a more sustainable way to deal with plastic waste. A refundable charge would encourage people to buy fewer drinks in plastic bottles and recycle them more, so minimise the environmental impact of plastic waste.

However, this would also require the government to increase the number of plastic recycling firms.

The Plastic Resources Recycling Centre (PRCC) in Tuen Mun would carry out public education and promote recycling through on-site demonstration of turning waste plastics into reusable materials. It also assisted the local community to establish a stable recycling network for waste plastics to alleviate pressure on landfills. However, the PRRC Project was closed at the end of 2016, as the government stopped subsidising it.

The lack of waste recycling facilities means the city is required to ship a lot of its plastic waste to mainland. However, in July this year, China informed the Word Trade Organisation that it will stop certain solid waste imports, including plastic. This will affect Hong Kong with its mountains of plastic waste. Therefore, if we aim to recycle more and reduce the quantity of plastic waste, we will have to boost local plastic recycling.

The government could encourage new plastic recycling firms by helping them to meet the criteria, such as for effluent discharge, or release more licences for recyclers. It should also educate the public about what types of plastic bottles can go into recycling bins, so that plastic firms or recyclers have an easier job managing waste plastic. Increasing plastic recycling firms might be one of the best ways to reduce plastic waste.

Bipana Gurung, Tuen Mun