University of Hong Kong bans sales of disposable bottled water to help planet

The measure takes effect on Pok Fu Lam campus from July 1 – and plastic bags and takeaway boxes could be next

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 7:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 9:16pm

The University of Hong Kong is banning sales of disposable bottled water on its Pok Fu Lam campus to help the environment.

All single-use bottles measuring one litre or less will be banned from shops, restaurants, offices and vending machines starting July 1.

Bottled water is also expected to disappear from all university events. The aim is to further encourage its 30,000 students and 7,000 staff to use fewer disposables and reduce waste.

At least 20 more filtered water dispensers will be added to the existing stock of 70.

“We started with one-litre and below water bottles because there’s just so much waste involved, and so much damage to the planet involved with that particular form of [pollution],” HKU vice-president and pro-vice-chancellor Professor Ian Holliday said.

People are creative, they can deal with challenges of all kinds
Ann Kildahl, HKU’s sustainability office

Ann Kildahl, who heads the university’s sustainability office, admitted it was a challenge getting all departments and faculties on board as many were concerned about alternatives or their provision at large events. But she said most supported the move “in principle”.

“My view was why don’t we just go ahead? People are creative, they can deal with challenges of all kinds,” she said.

While other universities had similar initiatives and recycling programmes, HKU is understood to be first to announce a campus-wide ban.

With waste charging set to go into effect in 2019, Kildahl said it was important for individuals and institutions to think less about how much they would need to pay “but how much we can reduce”.

Plastic bags and takeaway boxes, she said, could be the next target.

Students’ union president Ed Wong Ching-tak said he looked forward to seeing the policy implemented and a more sustainable campus.

Dana Winograd of local environmental group Plastic Free Seas lauded the move as a good way to tackle the city’s marine refuse, most of which was single-use plastic items.

“In order to combat this problem, we must decrease the amount of plastic we use. The single-use disposable water bottle is the perfect place to start,” she said

Five million polyethylene terephthalate bottles are disposed of every day in the city’s landfills and will take hundreds of years to decompose.

The government is studying the feasibility of a producer responsibility scheme for plastic bottles. This would require manufacturers, distributors, retailers and consumers to share the cost of waste disposal or recycling.