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Hong Kong environmental issues

McDonald’s tops Hong Kong fast food chain list for most plastic utensils used, Greenpeace says

Food giant used 216 million pieces of utensils, followed by 70.4 million from Cafe de Coral and 64.2 million from Fairwood, green group estimates

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 9:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 10:56pm

Fast food giant McDonald’s topped a list of similar chains in Hong Kong for the most plastic utensils given to consumers last year, according to environmental group Greenpeace.

The group relied on surveys and on-site investigations conducted this year, pairing it with data from a local market research firm which recorded transactions in the fast food sector last year, to backdate and estimate the 2016 output of plastic utensils from such chains.

Between August and November this year, Greenpeace sent staff to eight fast food chains in the city to study their plastics usage.

Among the chains, five were estimated to use in total more than 427 million pieces of plastic utensils a year. McDonald’s ranked first with 216 million pieces, followed by 70.4 million pieces used by Cafe de Coral and 64.2 million used by Fairwood.

“These figures are really scary,” Greenpeace campaigner Andy Chu Kong said. “Plastic spoons, forks and bags used in takeaway or dine-in meals contributed to at least 33 million pieces of plastics in a fast-food chain each year, in general.”

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Greenpeace also sent staff to observe and record how many disposable plastic utensils, such as forks or straws, were used in each menu item for both dine-in and takeaway meals.

Chu said all the eight surveyed chains did not do well in reducing the amount of plastic utensils they gave out.

All customers at McDonald’s and KFC were given disposable plastic utensils, while the other six, including Yoshinoya, Starbucks, Pacific Coffee and Maxim’s MX, offered the disposal items to customers dining in, even though the choice of reusable utensils was available.

While some chains claimed their utensils were made of recycled or biodegradable materials, Chu questioned how environmentally friendly these actually were.

“All these would still end up in landfills, as the recycling policy in Hong Kong is not good enough,” he said.

The group urged all fast food chains to stop providing disposable plastic utensils to dine-in consumers, set a timeline for plastic waste reduction and disclose to the public how much plastic items they used.

In a response, McDonald’s stated that its restaurants would not proactively hand plastic straws to customers or offer plastic bags for any drinks purchase. It would also continue to review product packaging in line with sustainable development.

Pacific Coffee said starting from next month, plastic utensils would only be provided upon request for takeaway food items. Cafe de Coral also said they would start reducing the amount of plastic utensils provided to dine-in customers starting from next year.

Starbucks said it was committed to championing the use of recycled content in packaging, and would continue to provide reusable options in stores and review their policies.

Meanwhile Yoshinoya said they were conducting studies on reducing the usage of plastic utensils. They are also reviewing a policy to encourage customers to bring their own bento boxes or utensils to dine at their restaurants.

Over at Maxim’s MX, a plan to phase out foam containers would be completed by next month. All stores have also been equipped with self-help water stations to minimise the use of disposable plastic bottles or cups.

Additional reporting by Su Xinqi