Five steps to cure Hong Kong of its plastic addiction
Hong Kong’s waste crisis has reached a critical point. All landfills are expected to reach capacity before 2020, with plastic waste piling up at a rate of more than 2,100 tonnes a day, and many of these plastics are disposable single-use items.
Plastic is treated as a cheap disposable commodity but, in reality, it is permanently harmful to the environment and human health, and a huge financial burden for the government.
Hong Kong finds itself in a uniquely difficult situation, due to a lack of space and time to develop further landfills, and due to new rules in mainland China that ban the import of 24 kinds of solid waste, including household plastic waste. Hong Kong is in dire need of a fast-working policy.
I suggest a five-step plastic waste prevention plan:
Step One: Introduce compulsory “plastic footprints” for companies. Let’s make reporting of the volume and type of plastics imported by the commercial sector mandatory and develop target values for individual persons.
Step Two: Focus on the “polluter pays” principle and introduce a volume-based waste fee determined by a company’s plastic footprint.
Step Three: Launch public awareness campaigns in combination with a programme rewarding environmentally-friendly consumer behaviour. For instance, buying of fruit that is not plastic-wrapped could translate into credit on one’s Octopus card.
Watch: Plastic waste chokes Asia’s oceans
Step Four: Ban single-use plastics, which can be easily replaced by reusable or renewable alternatives. The European Union, Taiwan and several other economies have started to implement bans for plastic bags, straws, and so on. Let’s follow suit.
Step Five: Phase out plastic packaging altogether. This would require a complete rethinking of packaging material and could even present a business opportunity for companies to spearhead new packaging technologies.
The ideal outcome of this five-step plan would be a fundamental change in Hong Kong’s convenience-based, plastic-packaging-craving culture. And we don’t have to wait for the government to take action. Instead, we can take responsibility for our own individual plastic footprints.
Why not begin today? When you buy your next coffee to go, use a reusable mug. You will notice that you enjoy your drink even more, knowing that you did your bit for the environment.
Eileen Nasert, Kowloon Tong