Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
Dear Hong Kong Citizens,
There are growing concerns that plastic waste, which is a non-biodegradable product and composed of toxic pollutants, causes great damages to the environment, especially to aquatic life.
The catering industry, among other industries, has been a contributor to these wastes. However, in a customer service-oriented business, we cannot expect a decline in the use of plastics if we do not change customers’ eating habits and instil a green culture among them. With this belief, I have lined up meetings with some major fast-food chains and the government officials in the past eight months to explore solutions to the problem.
For years, the administrations have continually pushed the public and the industry to reduce waste with a series of legislations and environmental levy schemes based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, such as the plastic bag levy, the soon-to-be-launched municipal solid waste charging scheme (or what we call the refuse levy) and the glass beverage bottle levy etc.
This is so called a policy of prohibition by means of levy which, however according to data, has never proved to be effective on waste reduction. Such a ‘stick’ approach is only a means for the Government to increase its revenue. At the end of the day, the general public, SMEs and micro-enterprises are the ones who bear the brunt of the increasing public expenditure.
Considering the ineffectiveness of the ‘stick’ approach, I have appealed to the Government to adopt an incentive or ‘carrot’ approach for the general public or trades that are willing partners in waste reduction.
I am very excited to announce that together with the Government as our partner, the catering industry is taking on a new ‘carrot’ initiative and is going to roll out a redemption campaign, with the aim of greatly cutting down on giving out plastic flatware by encouraging customers, who take out food, to keep a set of reusable utensils at their work place, as an effort to build a better environment.
Our preliminary plan is to present a set of reusable flatware to each patron who has collected six stamps from the participating fast-food chains. Each customer who ordered take out food and did not request for plastic flatware will receive one stamp from the restaurants.
Senior officials from the Environment Bureau and the Environmental Protection Department have already promised to supply around 200,000 free sets of reusable flatware and are willing to provide more if a favourable response to the campaign is received.
We strongly believe that education and publicity campaigns play a significant role in changing people’s behaviour and eating habits. In our estimation, about 5 million sets of plastic eating utensils are consumed every month among the three biggest fast-food chains. If we all work hard on the campaign, a large number of these plastics will be reduced.
I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the government for its prompt response to my request. We are at the stage of finalizing the details. I am urging the Government representatives to reach agreements with the participating fast-food chains as soon as possible.
We cannot fight the pollution battle alone. What I am trying to do is to create a win-win situation through partnership among consumers, the trade and the Government.
Although it is just a humble step, this sets a new precedent for the government to boldly take on the ‘carrot’ approach as a permanent policy, making it as a new style of governance.
In the long run, the government should make use of technical advances to lead the people of Hong Kong to live a greener life style: firstly by funding research and development projects to help the industry in sustaining their businesses in an eco-friendly way; and secondly to explore ways in the recycling of plastics and non-biodegradable wastes in Hong Kong.
Last year, when I was on vacation in the United States, I bought comfortable and trendy shoes and T shirts made from recycled plastic bottles. It is high time that we find ways to attract these green manufacturers to set up factories in Hong Kong so that we can recycle our plastic wastes locally and alleviate pressure on our landfills.
In conclusion, to build a greener Hong Kong, we should not lay all the burdens on the trade or consumers but work towards a multi-pronged, comprehensive and innovative approach to tackle the waste reduction issue.