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Hong Kong environmental issues

Why won’t Hong Kong go with the flow on tap water, and cut plastic waste in the bargain?

  • By making customers buy bottled water, Hong Kong is under-performing in its efforts to reduce single-use plastic
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2018, 4:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2018, 4:56pm

I feel forced to share an issue that I have experienced multiple times throughout Hong Kong – the refusal of public establishments to serve tap water to their paying customers.

Most recently, I found myself at the AMC cinema in Pacific Place. I had brought my own water bottle with me, as I usually do in an effort to reduce plastic waste. I was 34 weeks pregnant and I kindly asked the bar staff, who had a working tap in clear view, whether they could top up my half-full bottle. The bar employee said no.

I pointed out that I wasn’t going to pay for a bottle of water because I did not want to contribute to the huge problem of single-use plastic in Hong Kong – perhaps he could be so kind, since I was heavily pregnant. He still said no, strictly following his rules and applying no common sense whatsoever.

The formal feedback I had from AMC stated that they do not serve tap water since it is not filtered and risks illness. I dispute this: in new buildings it is public knowledge that Hong Kong tap water is very clean.

Sadly, there is no legislation that says food and drink establishments must serve tap water. Even if the cinema had charged me a nominal fee, I would have paid – but what if a customer was taken ill on the premises? Would they still be denied Hong Kong tap water?

What you should know about Hong Kong’s new drinking water rules

I have also experienced this in restaurants in Central. Not only is this a health issue (people should be encouraged to keep hydrated in this humid climate), but it is also a waste problem. By making customers buy bottled water, Hong Kong is under-performing in its efforts to reduce single-use plastic, while these establishments are making money at the expense of the environment.

Rebecca Spence, Mid-Levels