HK needs to cut down on single-use plastic

By Elaine Chow Yee-lam, Pope Paul VI College
By Elaine Chow Yee-lam, Pope Paul VI College |

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It takes only about 10 minutes to drink from a plastic straw, but 400-500 years for one to decompose.

I am writing in response to the article, “Plastic in your poop? Scientists say microplastics are showing up in human faeces” (Young Post, October 23.)

Scientists from the Environment Agency Austria and the Medical University of Vienna analysed the poop samples of eight participants from all over the world. They contained nine different types of plastic. 

We use too much plastic. The habit of using a plastic straw almost every time we have a drink has a huge negative impact on our planet. 

In the US, about 500 million straws are wasted every day. It takes only about 10 minutes to drink from a plastic straw, but 400-500 years for one to decompose in our landfills. From today, please say, “No straws, thanks”, when you order a drink. 

Elaine Chow Yee-lam,  Pope Paul VI College

We all need to use less plastic, plant more trees and stop using pesticides to protect the Earth's endangered species

From the Editor

Thank you for your letter, Elaine.

Plastic is posing a huge environmental threat to the world. We are producing millions of tonnes of plastic waste every year. Take a walk on any beach, anywhere, and the place would be filled with plastic rubbish. And now scientists have discovered up to nine different types of plastic in the poop of every person who took part in a Europe-wide study. They had all eaten plastic-wrapped food or drank from plastic bottles. 

This finding should worry all of us and we need further research to understand what this means for human health. But until then, we can take measures which help to reduce plastic waste.

In November last year, the government launched a scheme under which customers at three of Hong Kong’s major fast-food chains were given free reusable tableware for forgoing single-use utensils. This is a good start but the campaign lasted only two months and it cost HK$1.2 million. We need to do more to change people’s habits and we must find cheaper, faster ways to achieve our goals. For example, the plastic bag charge, which was introduced in 2009, has led to a dramatic decrease in the use of plastic bags. 

Maybe our government could launch a similar scheme for disposable plastic lunchboxes and utensils? A new law that states all single-use plastics be made from recycled material could be another option. As we all know, action speaks louder than words. So we need to take measures that affirm Hong Kong’s intention to become a green city.

M. J. Premaratne, Sub-editor